12 November 2011

I wrote the note Awakening Versus Liberation in an attempt to loosen the hard and fast beliefs and misconceptions people have about “enlightenment” and gurus. The intent was to have students look to teachers as humans, not some abstract Buddha or Ramana Maharshi substitute.
I really don’t care about what happened to Ramana and what he went through or Nisargadatta.  We really don’t know directly what they went through, we can only glean their inner journey before and after awakening from their writings and from writings of idealizing or critical biographers and disciples. We really don’t know first hand what Ramana was like, or whether we would have experienced the persons their devotees talk about. Devotees and biographers are often blinded by their own or others’ myths about gurus.
What we get is second, third and fourth hand accounts and opinions, and we build out images of what a guru should be like from this mythology.
Part of my work is to remove these false beliefs as well as true beliefs, so that you can go to a teacher empty of concepts to receive what he or she has to give.  Just meet your teacher, your lover, your God without preconception, open, welcoming and accept what is there.  But it is so very, very hard to actually do this.
Really, rather than looking for a Ramana substitute to make you complete or take your suffering away, or to give you some state you don’t presently have, isn’t being truthful to yourself the  highest path you can have before finding your teacher and surrendering?  And this means really being open and accepting of our feelings, fears, doubts, insecurities, etc., rather than running from them to find security and relief in a guru-image or imagined state of “enlightenment” when you actually have no knowledge of what that state means.
These beliefs, preconceptions about gurus and enlightenment, tap into deep desires and needs within us, and we project onto teachers and lovers the ability to respond to those needs, even while they may really be offering something entirely different, and maybe even better for us.  Finding they are different from the God-like images we have can cause such pain of loss, disappointment, fears and jealousies, exactly the emotions people go into spiritual to escape from or transcend.
Many years ago I wrote a Master’s thesis and a Ph.D. dissertation on how many people use spiritual practices to get away from the pain of being a vulnerable human, seeing the emotional pains in their own lives, as well as seeing the massive suffering and evils in the world.
Meditation, going inward, Mantras and even many spiritual techniques are often used as ways to escape “bad” and painful feelings, to process them, own projections, reframe them, or in many other ways to get rid of the bad feelings and keep the good and positive ones. However, the problem is if you take the painful feelings away, you also lose your ability to love, and you even begin to lose your aliveness.
Take my example. I had awakening experiences in 1995 but soon experienced depression.  Some would say I was not awake because I felt depression. But what kinds of feelings or moods is an “awake” person allowed to feel according to those who hold an ideal that awakened people cannot feel depressed by definition?  Can we feel love?  Of course that is allowed.  All awakened people feel love, don’t they?
Can they feel anxious then?  Or is that not allowed for those who hold some descriptive definitions of “awakened?”
What about an awakened person feeling emotions directly related to love, such as fear of loss or jealousy? 
Are awakened persons “allowed” to have such feelings?  In most cases persons with a Ramana-like image of the guru, say “No, an awakened person does not feel jealousy, fear of loss, depression, abandonment fears, etc., because their love is not “attached.” 
What does “not attached” actually mean?
This non attached love is often described as “real love” versus attached love, yet I have no idea of what unattached love is like. It certainly is not passionate love, sticky love, the kind of love that first crosses into our minds when we think of love, or that we find in Rumi's poetry about his love for Shams.
You see, if I love someone, or a cat, or even my car, that love makes me feel good.  My own love for that person or cat, makes me feel good.  In fact, the love can grow so large that it takes me over completely, and I attain a new identification---I have become love itself!  I am love without an object.  I can even identify as love, lover and the beloved at the same moment.
Yet, an hour later my beloved may call me on the phone, and all this self-love identification drops and I feel love for her.  Big love!  Ecstatic love flowing like a river, filling me with bliss and complete happiness.
Yes, I know at times I am love itself, my own love directed at my beloved now accepted as self love and as I, but I am well aware of the singular important place that my beloved plays in all of these feelings of love I have and all the subsequent transcendental identifications.
I certainly know how I am impacted when a cat I love dies.  I am devastated.  I feel depression, loss, laid low.  It is not nearly the severe depression I felt 15 years ago because somehow the Voidness I feel at all times spreads that sharp emotionality into a gentler, pervasive sense of loss or even desolation that is spread throughout my beingness as opposed to a sharp, piercing devastation I felt only in my heart, that is felt as if both life and love are being sucked out of me.  Some of the sting is gone, and in fact, in that desolation that I feel, there is a sweetness, a deeper sense of peace because I am closer to my core of affect, my so-called “depressive core.”  Resting there gives me peace, rest, silence.  Part of my love and beingness that had been projected into the other, is withdrawn back into me, and I feel their presence within.
Such is with Robert, he is always in me now, a presence I can count on.  But Robert is dead, he cannot abandon me further.
But what of someone who I love now? A lover, a guru, a child, a parent?  They could all be taken from me in a moment.  I would lose their constant presence.  I would lose talking to them which always fills me with happiness.  With a lover, I could lose those many, many moments of closeness, lying together, making love, or just enjoying her embrace, enjoying her happiness around me and my happiness at her happiness.  Would I not miss that first moment in the morning when I talk with her on the phone and hear her joy in talking to me?  Would I not miss our constant talks with each other about minutia, or expressing how much I love her, or hearing from her how much she loves me?
Do you mean I have to give all this up in order for many to consider me awakened or a proper teacher?  Do you mean this sort of love has to be abandoned because I am too attached to her presence?
I totally reject this notion of awakening and what an awakened being is like.
And, there are so many, many of these teachers of love, the perfect, unattached love, who when they do lose their wife to divorce, or someone they love on Facebook leaves them, they react with jealousy and messages and emails of anger and jealousy.
Rather than more limited and muted in emotions, I believe an awakened being who continues along the path to liberation (and these terms are really as much traps as assuming they both name the same state), in fact becomes more accessible to all affect, bigger and bigger affect, bigger love, bigger hate, bigger jealousies, bigger anger, because they have become much bigger humans, not more muted and affect-free humans.  This is the biggest mistake I see in most Facebook teachings: awakening means you feel no feelings or only positive ones, or are held by the Void or “silence.”
I need to make a distinction here. There is a huge difference between emotions, such as rage, love, jealousy, anger, doubt, intuitions, etc., and mood.  Moods mean depression, mania or anxiety.  The common psychiatric manual, the DSM-IV-TR talks about disorders of mood, but not disorders of emotion.
One can have a depressive disorder, which ranges from simple ongoing depression, to a major depression, to an adjustment disorder anxiety problem, to a generalized and paralyzing anxiety disorder with panic.  But there is no such thing as a jealousy disorder, or a love disorder, or a hatred disorder found in that manual. These are normal, expected emotions.  They are not to be depressed of denied.  Rather they need to be embraced, held and felt fully as they arise.
Take jealousy.
What is the matter with jealousy? I really cannot understand why some spiritual people think it is something you should not have. I think jealousy is programmed into the human psyche. Millions of years of imperfect monogamy and need for family preservation have help form our genes, coupled with thousands of years of the notion of a permanent love couple bonding, that has deeply ingrained in us genetically and as a Jungian archetype, the image of exclusive pair bonding. The institution of marriage ingrains in us the archetype of exclusive pair bonding, and we react from our depths with challenges to the exclusivity of our passionate and even not so passionate love relationships.
If I love someone deeply, of course I will be attached and not want to lose that person to another, or to a growing indifference between us. Jealousy includes feelings of potential loss of the relation, loss of love, loss of togetherness, sexuality, shared responsibilities, physical closeness, the endless talking to each other about how we love the other, as well as the shock and anger we feel when confronted by “another” intruding into and invading my relationship with my lover or guru. To fear this loss is so natural, whether to death or that my beloved now loves someone else more and wants to leave me.
All this nonsense I hear that attached love is not real love, and that an awakened person has no attachment to the loved, therefore no jealousy, is absolute bull. The love they are talking about is not passionate love at all, but one where we feel little or nothing when the beloved goes away. My point of view is that this kind of love is relatively useless and perhaps not worth feeling at all.  Even mother love, paternal love, sibling love is attached love.  Look how a mother clings to her child and the child to its parent. All the toddler wants is momma.
Big love, the kind of love that awakened me many months ago is deeply "contaminated" by attachment, feelings of jealousy, hurt, disappointment, anger, etc. But this love awakened “life” within me. I had been lost in the comfort, peace, and happiness of immersion in the Void-emptiness.
Then God, Consciousness, destiny, sent me my beloved and I awakened to ordinary humanity and human feelings as also being divine, and not to be cobbled, muted, and stifled of emotionality and aliveness. I was able to say loudly, as did Muktananda, once again, “I have come alive!”
You see, the love brought to me by my beloved, brought me a new life and “rescued” me from the void. Seeing through the illusion of the world, recognizing oneself as the Absolute, eventually passes as an all-consuming realization, and we see the need to travel back into ourselves as ordinary humans, no longer omnipotent in our awakening.
I saw that the journey to the absolute that I had taken now required a reverse movement back into being totally human, totally vulnerable, totally open, prepared to feel loss, hurt, jealousy, fear. Without an ability to feel those feelings, there was no way I could feel that great love that was a gift brought me. I cannot just select to have positive feelings. To feel great love, you must be able to feel great fear, great jealousy, and great suffering in every possible way.
The journey of the second half, the return to the marketplace for the spiritual aspirant, is often filled with great suffering, great effort, great vulnerability, great jealousy. This is the part where you work on your innate tendencies, the patterns, the recurring hurts and other psychopathology, such that one’s inside becomes totally consistent with one’s awakening to the silence and the Void.
But please don’t try to convince me that jealousy, hatred, anger, hurt, depression, and all other “negative” painful moods and emotions are to be avoided or transcended, but we let love, hope, peace and other positive emotions run free.  The human mind and heart just don’t work that way.  All feelings must be allowed to flow freely, unhindered, and this is the way we finally are liberated.  We accept all feelings with gratitude and openness. Only in this way can we be free.
Yes, and it is the work of that passionate love of Guru, lover or the I Am that brings all the muck to the surface for us to at first survive, then to deal with, then to sublimate and absorb back into our humanity.
You must not run from this is part of the path, your sadhana. Remember, the greater the suffering, the greater the payoff, the greater your ability to love and to accept love.


  1. Dearest Edji,

    How very blessed are we who have finally found you!

    Deepest Love and Devotion,


  2. Ed said, "You must not run from this is part of the path, your sadhana. Remember, the greater the suffering, the greater the payoff, the greater your ability to love and to accept love."

    This is the crux of the whole article, the 'running ...away'. How crafty we are at grasping and cleaving to what we take to be "Ultimate Truth". In the end we find that it is nothing more than a newly contrived conceptual structure built off the legacies and hearsays of so called 'spiritual giants'. Who, if we admit, we know absolutely nothing about. It's a type of escapism. Finding an image to project our stuff on and then worshipping it there as if that particular image validates us in some way.

    Brilliant Piece.

    Much Love,

  3. So what's the difference between being 'awakened' and being 'human', then - other than the intensification of feelings we already suffer/enjoy?

    I'm already in a constant flux between states - of fear and anger and depression. Why the fuck would I want those feelings any 'bigger'? Why would anybody? If I was any more angry I'd end up hurting someone. If I was any more depressed I'd end up hurting myself.

    And the reason people have this belief that gurus don't have negative feelings is probably because gurus are constantly reminding us about how they're always in a state of unending peace and bliss. What are we supposed to think?

    What are we 'allowed' to think?

  4. Awakening is when you see the mind has no substance, as well as the I and the world created by thought. In a sense we begin living in a different reality of speciousness and the conviction we, as the Absolute, live entirely outside its grasp. Robert and Ramana chose to stay there.

    On the other had, once the rush and impact of this awakening passes, we see the need to travel back into humanness. We also see we could have "practiced" to awaken, and "practiced" overcoming emotional problems simultaneously from the beginning. But for me, it happened in sequence.

    You have not seen your awakening yet, and you are fixated in getting some space from and insight into your emotionality.

    Right now the last thing you need is stronger emotions, so this article really is not for you except to get some perspective.

  5. I can see the process of "returning" to the human self in the post awakening period but with the conviction that emotions, be they positive or negative, are impermanent states and as such, one wouldn't identify with them nor remain consumed by them for days on end. But prior to that time, it was the identification which kept us in bondage because when having experiences of anger, jealously, etc., we then judged/labelled ourselves as precisely those states(i.e, "I am an angry person").


  6. Thanks Edji, you did it again. You make me move.

    Don't we need to have these feelings and emotions ourselves in order to be able to feel compassion ?

    Yes I have to let go some concepts about awakening to.

    All these feelings become an invitation. To look, to feel, to be in though with. To open my heart. To give space to whatever appears. To be connected with (my) beingness. Love.

    But not run away with in concepts like getting empty, working out karma.

    What the hell do I know what is emptiness. Even the word love is a concept for my mind. Concepts I like to get rid of.

    What is my basic experience? No fancy fairytale about some metaphysic reality. Not from hearsay. Not what I like to be or run away from.

    I do experience emotions. No doubt.

    But whatever the concept, I Love you,

  7. How about leaving what is human to human?
    To my mind, somehow, there shouldn't be any confusion between this world and revelations about nature of existence, or seeing through the mind.
    For example, at night you go to dream. There is this person in that dream who acts, feels various emotions, moods etc. Then suddenly you awaken from that dream, BUT it does not make that person in the dream GOD-like and Perfect. It has absolutely nothing to do with it.
    Suppose, next night you come back to the same dream. Though, now, you have knowledge that this is the dream, again, that character in the dream does not in any way become emotionless, perfect, peace-rock. It lives through sufferings, emotions, states, works on himself etc. That knowledge operates in him as grace.

  8. Dear Anonymous:

    "I'm already in a constant flux between states - of fear and anger and depression. Why the fuck would I want those feelings any 'bigger'? Why would anybody? If I was any more angry I'd end up hurting someone. If I was any more depressed I'd end up hurting myself."

    Please understand that right now you are controlled by your subconscious, compulsive thoughts that colour what is spontaneously arising in that moment, particularly in stressful situations. Once you are 'awake' these subconscious, compulsive thoughts are no longer in control, or even there!

    While I am certainly not 'awake', I can assure you that as you travel this Path there is a level of peace and happiness that overtakes you so that no matter what arises in the moment, your thoughts around it become much calmer. You are no longer overtaken by past memories and tendencies that colour the situation arising in front of you. And if you are sitting alone on your own, there is more 'space' where no past memories or thoughts arise giving you a great peace. You will also find that when intensive emotions do arise, they also fall quickly away and leave no 'mark' so that you are not left 'brooding' over the situation or get into a 'he said, she said' play in your head.

    Do no be afraid of awakening! As Martha Stewart would say "It is a good thing!" but in fact it is "no-thing"! :-)

    If you haven't done so yet, you might enjoy reading Rajiv's "The Blessing of the Unknown", an excerpt follows below.

    Much love,


    The known is a treacherous ‘friend’. You can never trust it. It comes without your asking as birth and leaves you without prior intimation as death. Everything that you have cherished through your knowingness is turned to dust when it leaves you. The unknown on the other hand stands the test of true friendship. You come from an unknown source and merge into it again on death. The unknown is there next to you right at the start of your journey and is there at the very end to receive you too. You fail to recognize who truly belongs to you, who is truly loyal to you and that is why life becomes a struggle.

    But, what you don't understand is that although knowingness is the foundation for all accomplishment and appears before any achievement, what precedes such knowingness is the unknown itself! The unknown is the origin, the foundation for every knowingness.

    So, can we therefore reverse the process and proceed from knowing to unknowing rather than holding on and accumulating various knowings? Can you welcome the unknown in your lives? Which means not caring for opinions, neither your own, nor of others; which means letting go of the 'controller' in you; which means being comfortable knowing less and less of what this world offers to you in terms of wealth, health, money, job, business, security, love, relationships. You need not reject what consciousness brings you - success, security, relationships... you only need to be indifferent to them. You only need to pay less and less attention to them. It doesn't matter if they are and it doesn't matter if they aren't. You neither rejoice in their appearance nor become sad when they disappear. If you can do that from the deepest core of your heart then you are automatically melting into the unknown. The blessing it will bestow on you cannot be described. So make friends with the unknown and it will reveal itself as the ever free and blissful SELF.

  9. Dear Jo-Ann,

    Loved reading your comment.


  10. Anonymous,

    "Leave what is human to human" ...

    This is my conclusion as well. All is Grace.

    Janet B.

  11. Ed, Jo-Ann,

    Thank you for your replies to my comment.

  12. Jo-Ann, thanks so much for what you shared here. I can testify to the fact that the thoughts that arise around the myriad of feelings and emotions do begin to calm down.

    It seemed like the most difficult task ever to be open to these feelings and emotions while the pletora of thoughts and memories were also fighting for attention. But they have died down and continue to do so on a regular basis.

    Much Love,