05 February 2015


I believe that ‘true’ Self-Realization of what I call the Manifest Self, AKA Atman, would be a natural consequence of a successful developmental sequence of the self experience as opposed to a “normal” self engaging on a path of spiritual transcendence (Transpersonal Psychology).  Based on my own experience, and observing many spiritual students over many years, I think a large number of people could be Self-Realized by the  age of 40 in the sense of Ramana Maharshi’s experience or Nisargadatta’s early Self-Realization experience if their self-developmental maturation processes were not made so torturous by the cultural, ideological, and familial matrix almost all humans are born into, and by extension, Self-Realization is the undoing of self-experience developmental failures.
In my view the infant to adult self-developmental take place in an incredible overload of external stimuli of conflicting concepts, messages, mind-numbing educational systems, social media, television, social pressures, legal constraints that make just adapting to the confusion and overload and extremely difficult task.  Failure to adapt leaves the vast majority of us confused, fragmented, unsure of our everyday let alone life-decisions that leaves us insecure, frightened, and directionless.  Then we are told we can end this insecure and frightened status by holding on to a belief system, or a cause, or a relationship thus becoming a cog within one of the larger wheels within the matrix.
My own journey was just this way.  I was utterly confused by the bewildering variety of conflicting concepts about everything and by the perceived utter nonsense of my own life and those of others living in the matrix.  I felt I did not belong in this world but did not know how to find my way home which led me for some unknown reason, straight into spiritual studies of the East, primarily to Zen because of its inherent distrust of concepts, and to Ramana, because of the utter simplicity that appeared to be the quest for knowing the I directly.
Thus I rejected all learning, all concepts, all social norms, and everything that I could perceive came from others in a quest for the real, or for truth, based on my own experience.
However, I realized then that I started this search while still embedded within the social/educational matrix I was born in, and could not myself begin to overcome my own embeddedness unless exposed to people and philosophies totally alien to my conventional Cleveland Ohio 1950s upbringing.
Long Zen practice including many tens of thousands of hours of meditation, study with six Zen masters, Koan study, sutra study led to hundreds of “spiritual” experiences that while liberating me from the conventional matrix, did nothing to clarify who or what I was, and, in fact, added whole new levels of uncertainty and doubt.
My whole life until the age of 30 or so was dominated by fear and confusion, and behavioral reactions to fear and confusion.  I studied martial arts and lifted weights because I was afraid, and studied Zen Koans as well as looking into my inner world for any kind certainty because I was confused by my profoundly distorted conventional upbringing and the early death of my father that made me realize how tenuous and uncertain life was, and that no concepts seemed at all real.  Words became just noise with no information transferred.
To make a very long story short, my inner search revealed an Emptiness within.  When I first looked within there was only darkness, but over months and years of meditation practice and looking for the I thought’s origin, that darkness became translucent and then filled with light such as my inner world and everything within it, from thoughts, to images, to daydreams, became as clear as anything seen in the external world.  This awareness of Emptiness, the Void of Zen, gradually destroyed all concepts that I was aware of until that point.  Yet, based on these experiences, I developed a new set concepts based on my direct experience of the Void and objects within the Void that was very similar to those now promulgated by the neo-Advaitins. Mind created everything.  No Mind, no-self was the answer.
However, I was wrong.  This was only one answer and the answer was hollow.  At least for me, this solution felt incomplete and not very rich or nuanced.  It lacked emotional warmth, and I realized I lacked emotional warmth, which  I both wanted and feared. Emotional warmth led to love and dependence, which led to heart-tearing loss, such as of my father through death.  I wanted love, I wanted warmth, but I hung onto the security of Emptiness through fear.
At this point my understanding and experience of the Void and changing forms within it had led to Robert Adams recognition of my awakening, and also being appointed to the position of America’s First World Teacher of Chogye Zen Buddhism in Korea in 1999.  But I waited five more years before I began teaching in 2004 when I erected the itisnotreal.com website which was a tribute to my own teacher, Robert Adams.  The whole site was dedicated to him and his teachings which I adopted as my own, since at this point, the only thing I knew for sure was Emptiness, as well as the subject, the Self which witnessed Emptiness and the world permeated by Emptiness.
But there still was an absence of warmth and love in my life.
When love came finally in the form of a nonsexual but romantic love for a female student, everything changed.
Love and internal energies burst forth from every pore in my body.  My body shook from surging energies everywhere within.  I could “see” energy currents flowing within my body, from toes to regions above my head.  I would feel bliss that deepened into ecstasies that lasted hours. My body became totally alive and I was filled with love for this woman, and that love just grew and grew until it was so overwhelming I identified with being love itself.  The love was so large that everything else was shoved out of my awareness and I became that love.
Shortly thereafter my own deepest Self, the same Self that dwelled within the Self experience of everyone, revealed itself to me as an Other, as God, as divinity separate from me as a most awesome presence, a being of infinite power wrapped in the light of a thousand suns which appeared within my experience of my own body, and then arose within me, going into my heart center, then bursting forth outwards and also upwards carrying me as a human witness, everywhere within the vast domain of the Void.
That experience was coupled with emotions I had never felt before: Intense gratitude for being allowed this experience, intense humility at seeing how small and insignificant I was compared to God, more gratitude for being allowed to serve this being in any way that I could, intense grace as all my sins and guilt were washed away and I was made pure by the presence of God within and without—everywhere.
Then came the recognition that this experience of Other, of God, was really the experience of the Witness of the Emptiness, now experiencing the flip side of Emptiness, which was the fullness of Shakti, the Manifest Self of energies, light, love, and emotion, and the recognition by that Witness of the identity of all three: Witness; Emptiness; Presence, which can also be expressed as: Noumenal or Absolute Self;  Emptiness and Presence as witnessed; the human personal self offshoot which is God incarnated.
Along with this recognition, I realized my whole life after age 18 was a journey towards Self-Realization through destroying the external social and cultural matrix that I had been embedded within by chance of birth, followed by dwelling in that scourging desert of Emptiness for decades, a kind of purgatory, which finally allowed for enough “purity” or absence of internal barriers to the experience of Self, that allowed me to see, feel, and in all ways experience Atman, the Manifest Self within, that also revealed the trinity of the Unmanifest Self, Manifest Self, human self.
Now, I know this is purely my own experience and others have had entirely different experiences, and thus different ways of living and teaching. But my way is a way that led to an explosive experience of Self within that was filled with fire, energy, complete self-abandonment into love, or emptiness, or whatever emotion or memory that arose within that my way may appear reckless or out of control, but it is only because I feel now complete security within my Self.  The experience of Self as wild energies, love, passion, gave me complete confidence in a passionate, deeply surrendered acceptance of that which had been long buried, long neglected, long repressed areas of myself, the lack of experience and integration of which, had prevented a natural Self-Realization experience many years before.
I truly believe that a person raised in a more permissive culture with a less confusing and contradictory social matrix, which promotes introspection as much as making it within the matrix, and which has more loving acceptance of all that arises from within, would result in many, many more people realizing both the Noumenal Self of the Witness, but also the salvation of the Manifest Self of Love, divinity, energies, and certainty regarding one’s own beingness.
This experience happened naturally to Ramana Maharshi at age 16 when he realized his own deepest Self—Atman, and I include his description at the end of this essay, but I am quite certain that many more people would have such a Self-Realization experience if raised in an alternative matrix that was not so screwed up, conflicted, confused and violent.
I also believe that many people could realize their own Self by practicing a method of Self-inquiry that emphasizes not only looking within to find one’s own source (the Noumenal Self), but feels within to find the existential source, the phenomenal or Manifest Self within which is embedded the personal, human self.
Not just any method of self-inquiry will do the job.  The self-inquiry suggested sometimes by Ramana and Robert Adams of “looking” within for the source of the I-thought will only reveal endless Emptiness—the Void, which is infinitely deep and within which you can be trapped for life.
One needs to practice an internal emotional inquiry of feeling within whatever arises, trying to feel the source of one’s own existence.  It is a search for that inner spark that feels like “I” or “me.”
And looking for that spark, that I Am, and resting there when you find it, will automatically reveal over time all those areas of emotionality and buried memories and trauma that has prevented you from realizing Self to this point, and this can be a heavy journey filled with emotional chaos, deep depressions, raging anger at the matrix for having prevented you from long ago feeling the Self within, and filled with other periods of intense love or longing for intense love, bliss, and eroticism which is a byproduct of an awakening Kundalini.  For this approach of using all emotions and memories that arise from within is basically a Tantric approach of incorporating lost emotions and energies into the self, both the human self, but also energizing or at least releasing the Manifest Self within—the God, AKA, the Atman revealed as a self-experience.
I would guess that my own psychotherapy of eight years with a brilliant psychologist, Eric Reitz, my immersion in the clarity of the Void for decades, followed by a reincarnation of the Manifest Self within me as a human gives this approach which could be called Devotional Advaita or Incarnational Advaita a distinctly emotional approach of liberating oneself from the matrix and then reowning the lost Self-Realization developmental trajectory.
Thus I can without doubt join with Swami Muktananda in saying that happiness and bliss, as well as the sure certainty and end of confusion is your birthright, even though I found many Siddha Yoga Swami’s devoid of actual self-realization because Muktananda did not provide a simple and direct means for Self-Realization.  The simplicity and directness of loving the loving  self-inquiry and self-acceptance that I advocate makes it an ideal path for those who are capable of becoming emotionally open.  The method itself helps one become emotionally open, for this openness is itself a developmental process.
It is an ideal method only because of its directness and simplicity, not because it is easier than many other paths.  In fact, it is easy to lose one’s way or get distracted.
Also, it is a quite difficult path for many kinds of students, such as those who are closed to many kinds of emotions, as I was (to love and bondedness out of fear of separation and loss), the so-called schizoid personality, and at the other end of the spectrum, the 2% who suffer from borderline personality dysfunction, also the narcissistic personality, and the histrionic personality. Here the problem in reaching Self-Realization is that the exposure and acceptance of the inner core emotions and damage already done, comes within a context of an ego or small self poorly adapted to regulate the intensity of emotions and spiritual states that are released making the journey much more intense for these people and potentially more dangerous in the sense of possible psychotic breaks and dysfunctionality.
However, I should mention that the Self-Realized state is inherently predisposed to dysfunctionality, because once you are fully aware of the Self within, God, there is nothing more to do in life: you are complete, happy, utterly self-reliant with a tendency to fall off the grid unless something within drives you on an external course of action, such as to become a teacher of Self, or an artist expressing Self through creativity, or an animal rescue person acting out a shepherd leaning that is part of Self-Realization—a kindness and compassion for all living beings.
I truly believe the reward of Self-Realization is worth the risks, because the life of a person with a borderline personality disorder, and those around such a person, can be rather painful, directionless, and confused way beyond the “normal human unhappiness” (Freud) that most people suffer from.
The histrionic personality is probably well-suited to this approach because of their relative willingness to experience and express some types of emotion.  What they need to learn to experience are other types of emotion very deeply and completely and those will be revealed through the self-inquiry process, notably depression and grief.
Other types of conditions well-suited for this approach are those with depression (but not during major depressive episodes), manic depression, grief and loss, for during these experiences one is sunk into deep layers of one’s own awareness of Self, often a kind of emptiness and aloneness that is enervating and empty. This is a place very similar to a description found in the Nath tradition of Nisargadatta of the Causal Body experience, which isjust one layer removed from the Manifest Self of Turiya, the Fourth State that underlies and permeates all other states of Consciousness.  It is just one short step from being frozen in a deep depression, to lovingly accept that total depression and dysfunction, and thereby bringing it into one’s own self-experience, integrating it, and then revealing the most ecstatic blissful state that lies just beneath the depression.
Once one has experienced this transition between deep depression and ecstasy just a few times, one can hardly wait for the development of the next depression so that one can experience the reward of continuous bliss for a few days afterwards.  Eventually, the period between the depression/bliss cycle widens, becomes less frequent, and the depressions gradually become less deep, they become more a delightful mood swing and less of a personal catastrophic challenge.
Using this method, under guidance, will make you a master of emotions for yourself and others. And, you will have a tamed wildness in you, a burning fire of the divine flame in you such that you will be able to cut to the heart of any situation, for you will have broken through all barriers of emotional expression and have a highly charged mastery of the Shakti within you, or better said, Shakti will lead you to very effective interactions within yourself, and between you and the world.  You will radiate with energies that many others can relate to positively but also negatively.  Some will be frightened by what you bring to the table, while others will be drawn to the freedom of Self that you have become.


The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.

’I at once dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor mortis had set in and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word ‘I’ or any other word could be uttered.
‘Well then,’  I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. This means I am the deathless Spirit.’

All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process.

‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centered on that ‘I’. From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on.

Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note  that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centered on ‘I’. Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.

One of the features of my new state was my changed attitude to the Meenakshi Temple. Formerly I used to go there occasionally with friends to look at the images and put the sacred ash and vermillion on my brow and would return home almost unmoved. But after the awakening I went there almost every evening. I used to go alone and stand motionless for a long time before an image of Siva or Meenakshi or Nataraja and the sixty-three saints, and as I stood there waves of emotion overwhelmed me.


  1. I'm trusting in you Edji. I feel no hope, no ability to change anything, no interest in anything, no place to go, nothing to learn, no one to help me. This is just how it is

    1. Syndria dearest, I found that the hopelessness doesn't last forever even though it seems like it is never, never ending. The end is just a tiny dot miles away. Well--- The whole Satsang Group is standing right with you and Edji is holding your hand.
      Joe Cocker sings, "With a little help from my friends". We are singing for you.
      It is a son-of-a -bitch following Edji's meditation method but wouldn't you rather have the 'fast track' that challenges every belief and notion that you have, turns your life upside down so you don't know your ass from a hole in the ground? Your a tough gal and many people are inspired by your perseverance. You are NEVER alone. With deepest LOVE. steve

  2. Don't take this as a bad place Syndria. Feel the power of stuck in emptiness.

  3. Don't take this as a bad place Syndria. Feel the power of stuck in emptiness.

  4. OK Edji. Empty is true im there for sure nowhere to turn power here? Ok S.

  5. When I take time to feel into them any sensation at all becomes exquisite. But it is often extremely difficult to summon the will to do it.
    Love you guys, hang in there! We will make it!

  6. Sure Andrew because as soon as there is someone to summon you have entered mind again. "Let go and Let God" is a good explanation here.

  7. What is the cause of grief and depression for histrionic personality when doing self-inquiry?