More than anything else, clarity of purpose is the most important possession of the sincere spiritual seeker. What is it that you are seeking?
Are you seeking knowledge of something or another, of Self or of God? Or, are you seeking some sort of experience, an imagined “awakening” experience, an imagined enlightenment?
Have you any idea of what “awakening” or “enlightenment” are? Are you seeking something about which you know nothing?
Or, are you seeking love, and if love, love of what? Are you seeking to experience yourself as love, or are you seeking an object to love, whether of an abstraction such as God or guru, or love of a specific other?
If you seek knowledge or love, you are in for a tough ride because you can find knowledge and love everywhere, but unless it is the correct type of knowledge, or the correct object of love, you will suffer from the proverbial 10,000 cuts torture.
Ultimately there is only one kind of knowledge that will satisfy the spiritual seeker: knowledge of who and what you are, knowledge of the Self.
But even knowing this does not help much because there are 100,000 books and scriptures all describing Self from one viewpoint or another, and several thousands of teachers selling knowledge of the Self or of the manifest or unmanifest worlds.
But this kind of knowledge will never satisfy you because it is borrowed knowledge learned from someone else. It is not your own knowledge arrived at by your own efforts and of your own devices. Such borrowed knowledge, whether it is of Christ, Buddha, Nisargadatta, or Ramana will never, ever satisfy you as long as it is a belief, even a strong belief, so strong we call it conviction.
Worse than that, there is a great divide through all of spirituality between those who say there is no self or no separate self, and those who not only claim there is a Self, but that they experience that sense of self at all times.
I admit, for most of my adult life I struggled to understand not only what others meant by the word “self,” but whether I could detect any Self within my subjective experience. I almost always fell into the no-self, no-I camp for half a century. For half a century I struggled to understand not only the many various concepts of self and no-self, but the experience of Self as a state or an event. For almost 50 years I had no knowledge of Self or self even after seven years of analytic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, decades of meditation, self-inquiry, Kundalini experiences, study under six Zen masters, Muktananda, and Robert Adams. For decades I was lost, clueless about Self and no self.
In Zen, which was my beginning point, there is no Self, there is no I, no I Am. The I and I Am are seen to be just words and when looking within, no thing, no I can be found. There is no inner entity of Self anywhere to be found. The only Truth is that there is no Truth, and the closest to truth one can come in words is expressed in the Heart Sutra: form is emptiness, emptiness is form; feeling, thought, and Consciousness itself are also like this. That is, there is no self-caused enduring substance or entity, for all such ultimately disappear into emptiness, and beyond that into nothingness—no Consciousness.
This is a very insecure place. There is no certainty except of continually unfolding uncertainty, no self, no truth.
On the other side of the spirituality universe we have the vast majority of seekers who are utterly confused because of the incredible diversity of spiritual teachings, most of which contradict other teachings. Many teachings are self-contradictory even within themselves, so the seeker franticly reads even more spiritual works to gain certainty rather than to endure the heavy and oppressive uncertainty of the confused.
What are these people to do? Read more books or to stop reading and read the only book that is important: themselves.
In 1995 I had two “awakening” experiences regarding who I was and which are described on my website: (http://www.wearesentience.com/my-experiences.html).
The first was that there is no self, there is no I. Subjectively, in my inner world, the word “I” did not point to anything. There was no I, no Self. There was only a vast emptiness within, no self, and everything happened spontaneously without an agent.
The second experience and understanding, was to see that “I” (even though there was no I) was not touched by anything in Consciousness, which meant anything in the manifest world or activity and form. “I” was beyond all, untouched by Consciousness. Consciousness was illusory, a dream that came to me like a thief in the night, unbidden.
Well, let me tell you, this knowledge of no self, or no separate self was not at all satisfying. I as a manifest entity did not exist in any substantial way. I was emptiness and form only. The sense of I was illusory, for no I existed as object to be found.
Thus I lived in this emptiness for 15 years with the profound knowledge there was no I, no Self. The profound truth here too is that there is no love. In fact, all human emotion is empty as are all relationships.
Then the most extraordinary thing happened to me: Love came to me, uninvited, unbidden, and in a way and to an extent I had never experienced it before, and with it came an explosion of life-energy that filled and awakened the self-knowledge of sentience within me. I became aware of of the continual presence of love, bliss and energy that ran through my body and which flowered as a continuous sense of presence within and around me, that most assuredly was “me,” “I,” “I Am.”
From emptiness a bomb of love, energy and bliss exploded in me with incredible intensity that over time revealed who I was with the utter conviction, not of a true believer, but of someone who had not believed he had a self because he found only emptiness inside, or the nothingness of sleep and death, and then to him was revealed the Self of Ramana, as ‘I-I’ where one I is that of the small self, the human we always took ourself to be, a piece of sentience entombed in a bit of flesh, filled with dreams, wants, opinions, etc., but who also was the Self-of-All, which appeared so huge as to be totally beyond being human; it had to be divine, the other half of the I-I.
What had been missing all along, for all those decades and especially in the 15 years after my first awakenings with Robert Adams, was LOVE! Feeling an unbelievably powerful sense of love ignited my sentience, filled the inner energies with an unbelievable life-force, bliss, energies and a continuous sense of presence of me as being not body, not mind, but as sentience itself. As knowing. As self-knowing and self-knowledge.
The key was investigating the inner world with total love so that the inner emptiness is quickened with the life-bliss energies of the deepest level of sentience.
So, you need to see that there are on this path, two self-realizations: realization of the Self as the Witness, the Absolute, unmanifest “beyond” which can never be directly known, and realization of the Self as the manifest, as energy, presence, love, bliss, and the divine.
This kind of realization is never final, because the forms, the manifest world, our manifest selves are constantly unfolding, changing, manifesting. Only the Absolute who witnesses all this is untouched, and after 15 years of being untouched, the sweetness and energies of the manifest Self elicit such thankfulness for life, gratitude, humility and grace.
So I urge you, become clear about what you seek. What is it that motivates your seeking? Is it just curiosity that there may be something beyond the world you live in? Or is there a burning desire to grasp the real? Or is there a burning desire for love, or have you found all human love relationships wanting from repeated failures?
Assuming you understand what forces are driving you, what do you do then? Read more books? Seek a guru? Try to find whatever you are looking for without any guidance except your own?
If you decide to accept the help of a guru, the most important thing to discover is what he or she actually experiences within themselves on a day to day, minute to minute basis. Ask them what their inner experience is. Ask them what they offer you. Do just listen to their abstract talks about Consciousness, Self, no-self, or methods. Find out whether they can give you what you seek. Whatever you do, don’t just go to a teacher and begin immersing yourself into their books, classes and retreats without finding out what they are offering you and how they plan on helping you find whatever you want.
You know, I was never intelligent enough or self-confident enough to ask any of my teachers to discuss their continuous self-experience, and what they had to offer me as a consequence of spending time with them. In retrospect, I was so naïve and truly unquestioning. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to extract such self-revelations from a teacher, as they tend to hide behind whatever expectations or projections you have of them, which brought you to them in the first place. You imagine that he or she has something in their conscious experience that you want and they can give it to you. But they do not want to talk about their own experience or what they have to offer because in such clarity, they will lose many students who want what they cannot offer.
Do you want bliss and energies? Do you want love beyond anything you have ever experienced before? Do you want to know who or what you are? Do you want to escape from life and emotional intensity by abiding in the Absolute, the Witness? Or do you hunger to know and experience everything? This is the highest aspiration: to hunger to know both God, yourself as a human, and That which lies beyond everything.
If you plan on doing everything yourself, you have a fool as a client, because it is almost impossible to see through the filters and blinders you have been raised with. You will continually go around in circles, never able to leave your box.