In essence the entire spiritual endeavor is a very simple thing: Spirituality is essentially about awakening as the intuitive awareness of unity and dissolving our attachment to egoic consciousness. By saying that spirituality is a very simple thing, I do not mean to imply that it is either an easy or difficult endeavor. For some it may be very easy, while for others it may be more difficult. There are many factors and influences that play a role in one’s awakening to the greater reality, but the greatest factors by far are one’s sincerity, one-pointedness, and courage.
Sincerity is a word that I often use in teaching to convey the importance of being rooted in the qualities of honesty, authenticity, and genuineness. There can be nothing phony or contrived in our motivations if we are to fully awaken to our natural and integral state of unified awareness. While teachings and teachers can point us inward to “the peace beyond all understanding,” it is always along the thread of our inner sincerity, or lack thereof, that we will travel. For the ego is clever and artful in the ways of deception, and only the honesty and genuineness of our ineffable being are beyond its influence. At each step and with each breath we are given the option of acting and responding, both inwardly and outwardly, from the conditioning of egoic consciousness which values control and separation above all else, or from the intuitive awareness of unity which resides in the inner silence of our being.
Without sincerity it is so very easy for even the greatest spiritual teachings to become little more than playthings of the mind. In our fast-moving world of quick fixes, big promises, and short attention spans, it is easy to remain on a very surface level of consciousness without even knowing it. While the awakened state is ever present and closer than your feet, hands, or eyes, it cannot be approached in a casual or insincere fashion. There is a reason that seekers the world over are instructed to remove their shoes and quiet their voices before entering into sacred spaces. The message being conveyed is that one’s ego must be “taken off and quieted” before access to the divine is granted. All of our ego’s attempts to control, demand, and plead with reality have no influence on it other than to make life more conflicted and difficult. But an open mind and sincere heart have the power to grant us access to realizing what has always been present all along.
When people asked the great Indian sage Nisargadatta what he thought was the most important quality to have in order to awaken, he would say “earnestness.” When you are earnest, you are both sincere and one-pointed; to be one-pointed means to keep your attention on one thing. I have found that the most challenging thing for most spiritual seekers to do is to stay focused on one thing for very long. The mind jumps around with its concerns and questions from moment to moment. Rarely does it stay with one question long enough to penetrate it deeply. In spirituality it is very important not to let the egoic mind keep jumping from one concern to the next like an untrained dog. Remember, awakening is about realizing your true nature and dissolving all attachment to egoic consciousness.
My grandmother who passed away a few years ago used to say to me jokingly, “Getting old is not for wimps.” She was well aware of the challenges of an aging body, and while she never complained or felt any pity for herself, she knew firsthand that aging had its challenges as well as its benefits. There was a courage within my grandmother that served her well as she approached the end of her life, and I am happy to say that when she passed, it was willingly and without fear. In a similar way the process of coming into a full and mature awakening requires courage, as not only our view of life but life itself transforms to align itself with the inner mystic vision. A sincere heart is a robust and courageous heart willing to let go in the face of the great unknown expanse of Being—an expanse which the egoic mind has no way of knowing or understanding.
When one’s awareness opens beyond the dream state of egoic consciousness to the infinite no-thing-ness of intuitive awareness, it is common for the ego to feel much fear and terror as this transition begins. While there is nothing to fear about our natural state of infinite Being, such a state is beyond the ego’s ability to understand, and as always, egos fear whatever they do not understand and cannot control. As soon as our identity leaves the ego realm and assumes its rightful place as the infinite no-thing-ness/every-thing-ness of awareness, all fear vanishes in the same manner as when we awaken from a bad dream. In the same manner in which my grandmother said, “Getting old is not for wimps,” it can also be said that making the transition from the dream state to the mature, awakened state requires courage.
Sincerity, one-pointedness, and courage are indispensable qualities in awakening from the dream state of ego to the peace and ease of awakened Being. All there is left to do is to live it.
© Adyashanti 2008
Following is a French translation of Adyashanti's "True Meditation."
La véritable méditation n'a ni direction, ni but, ni méthode. Toute méthode vise à atteindre un certain état d'esprit. Tout état est limité, transitoire et conditionné. La fascination pour les états mène à l'asservissement et à la dépendance. La véritable méditation est de rester présent en tant que conscience primordiale.
La véritable méditation apparaît spontanément dans la conscience quand l'esprit n'est pas fixé sur des objets de perception. Quand vous commencez à méditer, vous remarquez que l'esprit est toujours dirigé vers un objet quelconque, qu’il s’agisse de pensées, de sensations corporelles, d’émotions, de souvenirs, de sons, etc. Il en est ainsi car l'esprit est habitué à se concentrer sur les objets et à se contracter. Alors, l'esprit interprète machinalement ce dont il est conscient (les objets) de façon compulsive et déformée. Il se met à tirer des conclusions et à faire des suppositions basées sur des conditionnements passés.
Dans la véritable méditation, tout objet est laissé à sa fonction naturelle. Cela veut dire qu'aucun effort ne doit être fait pour manipuler et supprimer un quelconque objet dont on est conscient. Dans la véritable méditation, l’accent est mis sur le fait d'être conscience; non pas d'être conscient d'objets, mais de rester présent en tant que conscience primordiale elle-même.
La conscience primordiale est la source à partir de laquelle tous les objets surgissent et se dissipent. Alors que vous vous détendez doucement dans la conscience, dans l'écoute, la contraction compulsive de l'esprit sur les objets s'atténuera. Le silence d’être se révélera plus clairement dans la conscience comme une invitation à vous y reposer et à y demeurer. Une attitude d'ouverture et de réceptivité, libre de tout but ou d'anticipation facilitera la présence du silence et de la tranquillité, qui se révéleront être votre condition naturelle.
Le silence et la tranquillité ne sont pas des états et, par conséquent, ne peuvent être produits ou créés. Le silence est le non état à partir duquel tous les états surgissent et se dissipent. Le silence, la tranquillité et la conscience ne sont pas des états et ne peuvent jamais être perçus dans leur totalité en tant qu’objets. Le silence est lui-même le témoin éternel sans forme ni attribut. Alors que vous vous reposez plus profondément en tant que témoin, tous les objets reviennent à leur fonction naturelle, et la conscience se libère des contractions compulsives et des identifications de l'esprit pour retourner à son non état naturel de présence.
La question simple mais profonde «Qui suis-je ?» peut alors se révéler, non pas comme la tyrannie sans fin de l'égo-personnalité, mais comme la liberté d'être non objective -- la conscience primordiale dans laquelle tous les états et tous les objets naissent et meurent en tant que manifestations de l'éternel Soi non né que VOUS ÊTES.
© 1999 Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
There is a very famous poem written by the third patriarch of Zen, Seng-ts’an, called the Hsin-Hsin Ming, which translates as Verses in Faith Mind. In this poem Seng-ts’an writes these lines: “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.” This is a reversal of the way most people go about trying to realize absolute truth. Most people seek truth, but Seng-ts’an is saying not to seek truth. This sounds very strange indeed. How will you find truth if you don’t seek it? How will you find happiness if you do not seek it? How will you find God if you do not seek God? Everyone seems to be seeking something. In spirituality seeking is highly honored and respected, and here comes Seng-ts’an saying not to seek.
The reason Seng-ts’an is saying not to seek is because truth, or reality, is not something objective. Truth is not something “out there.” It is not something you will find as an object of perception or as a temporal experience. Reality is neither inside of you nor outside of you. Both “outside” and “inside” are not getting to the point. They both miss the mark because outside and inside are conceptual constructs with no inherent reality. They are simply abstract points of reference. Even words like “you,” or “me,” or “I,” are nothing more than conceptual points of reference existing only in the mind. Such concepts may have a practical value in daily life, but when assumed to be true they distort perception and create a virtual reality, or what in the East is called the world of samsara.
Seng-ts’an was a wily old Zen master. He viewed things through the eye of enlightenment and was intimately aware of how the conditioned mind fools itself into false pursuits and blind alleys. He knew that seeking truth, or reality, is as silly as a dog thinking that it must chase its tail in order to attain its tail. The dog already has full possession of its tail from the very beginning. Besides, once the dog grasps his tail, he will have to let go of it in order to function. So even if you were to find the truth through grasping, you will have to let it go at some point in order to function. But even so, any truth that is attained through grasping is not the real truth because such a truth would be an object and therefore not real to begin with.
In order to seek, you must first have an idea, ideal, or an image, what it is you are seeking. That idea may not even be very conscious or clear but it must be there in order for you to seek. Being an idea it cannot be real. That’s why Seng-ts’an says “only cease to cherish opinions.” By opinions he means ideas, ideals, beliefs, and images, as well as personal opinions. This sounds easy but it is rarely as easy as it seems. Seng-ts’an is not saying you should never have a thought in your head, he is saying not to cherish the thoughts in your head. To cherish implies an emotional attachment and holding on to. When you cherish something, you place value on it because you think that it is real or because it defines who you think you are. This cherishing of thoughts and opinions is what the false self thrives on. It is what the false self is made of. When you realize that none of your ideas about truth are real, it is quite a shock to your system. It is an unexpected blow to the seeker and the seeking.
The task of any useful spiritual practice is therefore to dismantle cherishing the thoughts, opinions, and ideas that make up the false self, the self that is seeking. This is the true task of both meditation and inquiry. Through meditation we can come to see that the only thing that makes us suffer is our own mind. Sitting quietly reveals the mind to be nothing but conditioned thinking spontaneously arising within awareness. Through cherishing this thinking, through taking it to be real and relevant, we create internal images of self and others and the world. Then we live in these images as if they were real. To be caught within these images is to live in an illusory virtual reality.
Through observing the illusory nature of thought without resisting it, we can begin to question and inquire into the underlying belief structures that support it. These belief structures are what form our emotional attachments to the false self and the world our minds create.
This is why I sometimes ask people, “Are you ready to lose your world?” Because true awakening will not fit into the world as you imagine it or the self you imagine yourself to be. Reality is not something that you integrate into your personal view of things. Reality is life without your distorting stories, ideas, and beliefs. It is perfect unity free of all reference points, with nowhere to stand and nothing to grab hold of. It has never been spoken, never been written, never been imagined. It is not hidden, but in plain view. Cease to cherish opinions and it stands before your very eyes.
© Adyashanti 2007
When you read a novel, and you read about various characters, you may like some and not like others. Or when you watch a movie, think about your relationship with the characters. You might like them; you might not like them—but you’re not finding your sense of self in them. You’re not referencing your self-worth by the characters in a novel or when you turn on the TV. You just have your thoughts about them.
But imagine if you turned on your TV or you read a novel and you actually completely derived your sense of being and your sense of self from one of the characters. Immediately your perspective is very different, isn’t it? Now your perspective has gone from something that’s very vast to something that’s very limited, seen only through the eyes of the character. Sadly, that’s how most human beings spend their lives. They have this little character in their mind called "me," and they’re actually viewing that “me” as personal when it’s not.
The “me” is very impersonal, not meaning cold or distant, but just meaning without inherent self nature, in the same way that when you read a book, the characters are without self nature. They actually don’t exist outside of your imagination. They don’t even exist in the book, because the book is just words. And without someone reading the words and bringing it all alive within imagination, nothing even exists on the printed page. It’s all within the reader, all the life.
When the Buddha talked about the realization of no-self, he was talking about the self that’s an image in the mind being completely seen through. And when there is no image of self, experience has nothing to bounce off of. Everything just is as it is, because there's no secondary interpretation. The one that’s interpreting is the one that’s in pain. And that’s the one who suffers. That’s the one who causes others to suffer.
The false self, the self that’s an image in the mind, uses every experience to measure itself: “How am I in relationship to what’s happening? Am I wise? Am I stupid? Am I clumsy? Am I courageous? Am I enlightened about this?” That’s the movement of consciousness reflecting on an image of itself that doesn’t actually exist. It’s always measuring each and every experience, and then believing in the interpretation of the experience rather than seeing “Everything just is.”
Everything actually just is. From the perspective of consciousness, even resistance just is. And if you resist resistance, that’s just what is. You can’t get away from it. You start to see that the only thing that goes into resistance, a story, or an interpretation of what is—whatever it is—is this mind-created persona. It's like a character in a novel. When you read a novel, every character has a point of view. It has beliefs. It has opinions. There’s something that makes it distinct from other characters. Our persona is literally this mind-created character that’s always making itself distinct. So it always needs to evaluate everything against its preconceived idea.
There’s another vantage point. The other vantage point is not only outside the character, it's also inside the character. It’s the ultimate vantage point that’s outside, and it’s also playing all the parts from the inside.
That’s basically what it means to really wake up: we’re waking up from the character. You don’t have to destroy the character called “me” to wake up from it. In fact, trying to destroy the character makes it very hard to wake up. Because what’s trying to destroy the character? The character. What’s judging the character? The character.
So you leave the character alone. The character called you, just leave it alone. Then it’s much easier for the awakening out of that perspective to happen.
You don’t lose the character; you just gain the whole novel of life. It’s not like you lose anything. You just gain the whole book. You gain the whole universe. As Buddha would say, “Lose yourself, gain the universe.” It’s not a bad deal. Or Dogen: “To know yourself is to forget yourself, and to forget yourself is to be enlightened by the 10,000 things,” which means to see yourself everywhere. Wake up from your character, and then you see your self nature in all characters—not just one, but all of them.
So we don’t lose anything. We gain all characters. We just lose the fixation, that’s all.
Excerpted from Palo Alto Satsang, 6-22-05
© 2005 Adyashanti
Awakening to the truth is a deep realization of what you are as an experience. What is it that is feeling? What is it that is thinking or sensing? This is not about coming up with the right name for it, so don’t name it for a moment. It’s about just noticing, just experiencing. Feel it. Sense it. Welcome it. Spiritual awakening is realizing what occupies the space called “me.” When you listen innocently, you’ll see that there really is something more here than a me.
Your me is always experiencing this moment in relation to some other moment. Is this moment as good as it was two weeks ago? Will it be the same today as it was yesterday? The me worries about what it knows and whether or not it is good enough to get enlightened. Your me might call itself Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Advaitan, atheist, agnostic, believer, or nonbeliever, but no matter what your me is identified with, when you become very open and relaxed, you can suddenly be aware that something else is occupying your body-mind. Something else is looking out from your eyes, listening from your ears, and feeling your feelings. That something has no qualities. Realizing your true nature is realizing what is present without qualities. We can call it the emptiness of consciousness, the Self, or the No-Self. To directly experience this emptiness—the aliveness of it—is spiritual awakening. It is to realize yourself as beautiful nothingness, or more accurately, no-thing-ness. If we say it’s just “nothing,” we miss the point.
When your image of the me takes a break, you’ll find all you are doing at that moment is just being open. You feel quite relieved that you are not trying to get to another moment or a better experience. You feel yourself just being in a very relaxed, easy sense of peace. You haven’t gained anything at all—you’re not smarter, you don’t necessarily know more than anyone else, and you haven’t suddenly become holy. If you are resting as your own true nature, then you feel that there is really nowhere else to go.
At that moment, you feel as if your path has ended. It can be hard to end it when so much is invested in your path, but if you really want to be free, you must want to know the truth more than anything else. And when you do, you find that the truth is so damn empty. There is so much nothing to it. There is so much nobody there, just a very vivid awakeness.
But even then you can realize the truth and still not operate from it. You can have a very deep awakening experience and still not function from that awakening because the me is still convinced that a me is necessary. The me always brings you back into relationship with another—it can be the world and me, my job and me, the dog and me, whatever. Have you noticed how the way you relate to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations is often slightly adversarial? How it’s never quite the right moment? How it’s almost perfect, but not quite? The Buddha said, “All suffering originates from craving, from attachment, from desire.” This is the movement of the me who always wants a little more out of the moment.
The me is clumsy. As my mother used to say, “You’re like a bull in a china shop.” Did you ever hear that? If you let your mind imagine a bull getting loose in a china shop, that’s how the me is. It’s knocking things over, things like the most precious china. With a whisk of its tail, there goes . . . grandma’s four-generation-old antique china cups! Boom—they’re gone. When your me is operating, it’s like that bull. It tends to make a lot of noise because it’s always in a slightly adversarial relationship with its moment. It produces noisy thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or opinions. It also likes to search, moving its head around, scanning for the right emotion in the body, scanning through the mind for the right concept. It’s always in movement like a radar, looking for the right thing to happen.
As soon as you move your attention away from the radar scan, you start to notice something else. Inside, there is something that is not creating nearly as much noise as the me. This something else, this openness, this awakeness, is not searching for the next moment or scanning for the right emotion or experience. You can get the sense of it now. What does it feel like to simply be awake? Whether you think you are awake or not doesn’t matter—don’t worry about that for now. What does the awakeness itself feel like? What is the experience of that awakeness before you try to be more or less awake? Just with a willingness to open, you can start to feel it. How does this awakeness feel? How does this openness feel? Just by bringing your attention there, just by noticing without any effort, this formless or empty sense of being heightens itself as if to say, “Someone is finally paying attention.”
When this openness is present, you can recognize how it experiences your body. How does openness experience a feeling, emotion, or thought? How does it experience the movement called “me”? Allow yourself to get a real taste of this. This openness is in a completely different relationship with everything that exists, starting with you. It’s in a different relationship with the moment; it’s not going anywhere. Have you noticed? It’s not trying to achieve something else. It hasn’t elevated you or demeaned you. Start to sense the profound innocence of this openness. It’s not perceiving from the past—not from the last moment, much less from the accumulation of a lifetime. It’s perceiving only in this moment.
Openness has not accumulated anything, so it’s free. It has a profoundly innocent but wise relationship to everything. It is something primary, awake, and alive. You can sense how incredibly precious it is. When you look right into it, there is nothing there. Let yourself experience this openness, this nothingness. Let yourself see how it experiences your body and mind right now, in this moment. It’s so different from the experience of the me. This nothingness is the peace that surpasses all understanding, and it’s right here at your fingertips.
Awakeness is inherent in all things and all beings everywhere, all the time. This awakeness relates to every moment from innocence, from absolute honesty, from a state where you feel absolutely authentic. Only from this state do you realize that you never really wanted whatever you thought you wanted. You realize that behind all of your desires was a single desire: to experience each moment from your true nature. You find that simply walking outside and seeing a leaf in the breeze or seeing a street person on the corner is the most exquisite of experiences. You don’t need anything big; each moment has a beauty all its own. Even the very ugly moments have a beauty when experienced from this innocence, this beautifully disarming state of awakeness.
During any moment, you can ask yourself, “What is it like for emptiness to experience this moment? What is it like for awakeness?” Really listen, because openness is quiet and soft. You can’t insist upon it. You can’t grab for it, so don’t reach. Just open. Look for the openness, feel from the openness, and relate from the openness. It can freak you out if you’re not used to it. If you find yourself in a place that you don’t like, just ask how openness is experiencing this moment. A shift happens, and you find yourself saying, “I’ll be damned—it’s actually enjoying this!”
This relationship from your heart, from the truth of your being, from openness—is something that can’t be taught. I remember what it was like when I went as a Buddhist to undertake the precepts. You read through them, study them, and kind of take them inside. You do whatever the little me does with them, like deciding you are going to do a really good job of it—until you find out otherwise. You think you know what the precepts are, then you really awaken to your true nature and realize that this is how your true nature naturally sees things. It’s very simple. That’s it. Now you don’t need any precepts because your true nature sees that way all the time. You don’t need to be reminded of how your true nature sees. You only need to be reminded of what your true nature is.
So if you want to find out how openness relates to each moment, just go inside. Be that openness. Be that emptiness. All you can do is ask yourself, inquire for yourself. How is it relating to this thought in my head? To this person? To this moment? You can see this. Go directly to the source, to the only authority that is finally liberating: your own awakeness, your own emptiness perceiving this moment. It will teach you how to live.
Berkeley, California, March 17, 2002
© Adyashanti 2006
What is inquiry, really? This is a good question. And like most really good questions, it is very basic. Authentic inquiry is allowing yourself to care, to take on the weightless burden of caring. Everyone knows what it’s like to inquire out of intellectual interest—asking for the sake of asking or because you think you should. This is not caring. When you care about something, it gets inside of you. It gets inside the shell that keeps you from being affected or bothered, the shell that keeps anything really new from happening.
So in the beginning, to deeply inquire about anything, you have to care about it. You have to care enough to allow it to get inside that shell. What do you really care about? What pulls you into here and now, this minute? What is the most important thing to you? For real inquiry, it is important to be asking about something you sincerely care about. The question needs to be personal, not about a spiritual teaching or something that’s outside of your experience. It needs to be something that’s coming from the inside.
When you care, you care from the inside. Many people impose ideas from the outside upon themselves, but this isn’t inquiry. When you really care, you enter a love affair with what you care about. Sometimes it draws you into bliss, sometimes into confusion. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know where you are going. You feel a bit out of control. You’re letting this caring get under your skin. To find out that you care like this is the most important thing; otherwise you can spend your whole life caring about what someone else says you should care about.
Like many people, you may be afraid to find out how much you care because that caring could just steal you away. What is the one thing that will matter the most at the end of your life? Without it, you would say: “That’s what it was all about and I missed it.” If you had the best job, lots of money, the perfect lover, or whatever your ideal is, and suddenly your life was over, what would still be left undone? That’s what it’s all about.
When you find that kind of caring, inquiry has some power behind it. You also find your own inner integrity. You find something inside that’s stable. There’s a place inside you that is willing to be a little crazy—crazy enough to take inquiry seriously and hold nothing sacred. Holding nothing sacred means that nothing is assumed to be true and all of your assumptions are fair game. The more spiritual they are, the more they are fair game. Ultimately it is your most sacred and unquestioned assumptions about yourself, others, and life that are most important to question.
Many people find their spirituality taking them outward. They think they are going inward because they have heard the spiritual teaching, “Inquire and look within.” Meanwhile, they are out in the stars somewhere looking for someone else’s experience, looking for the right experience, or looking for the experience they believe they are supposed to have. This is spirituality going entirely in the wrong direction. Inquiry is a means of taking you back to yourself, back to your experience.
When inquiry is authentic, it brings you into the experience of here and now, bringing you to the full depth of it, pulling you into it. The question pulls you back into the mystery of your experience. “What am I?” takes you right back into the mystery. If your mind is honest, it knows it doesn’t have the answer. You ask, “What am I?” and instantly, there is silence. Your mind doesn’t know. And when it doesn’t know, there is an experience right here, right now, that is alive. You bump into nothingness inside—that no-thing, that absolute nothingness which your mind can’t know.
The answer does not come in the form of a description or phrase; it is a direct experience. And this experience, your livingness, always transcends any words or intellectual answer. In fact, the truth of your being is eternally transcending itself. As soon as it projects itself out as something, even as a profound insight, it has already transcended it. So eventually the inquiry wears itself out. You wear yourself out. You wear your ego self out. You wear your spiritual self out. You wear it all out. You’ve inquired yourself out of this whole thing, and you’re disappearing faster than you can put yourself together.
As Nisargadatta Maharaj said so brilliantly and beautifully, “The ultimate understanding is that there is no ultimate understanding.” When it’s in the head, it’s an impressive piece of understanding; when it’s in the heart, as the Buddha said, it’s extinguished. You find a living experience of being, empty of content, empty of you. This is where spiritual awakening begins. This is the living answer of authentic inquiry.
© Adyashanti 2007
Awakeness is inherent
in all things and all beings
all the time.
This awakeness relates to every moment
from absolute honesty
from a state where you feel
Only from this state
do you realize
that you never really wanted
whatever you thought you wanted.
that behind all of your desires
was a single desire:
to experience each moment
from your true nature.
© 2007 by Adyashanti.
The quest for enlightenment is the quest for truth or reality. It’s not a quest for ideas about truth—that’s philosophy. And it’s not a quest to realize your fantasies about truth—that’s fundamentalized religion. It’s a quest for truth on truth’s terms. It’s a quest for the underlying principle of life, the unifying element of existence.
In your quiet moments of honesty, you know that you are not who you present yourself as, or who you pretend to be. Although you have changed identities many times, and changed them even in the course of a single day, none of them fit for long. They are all in a process of constant decay. One moment you’re a loving person, the next an angry one. One day you’re an indulgent, worldly person; the next a pure, spiritual lover of God. One moment you love your image of yourself, and the next you loathe it. On it goes, identified with one self-image after another, each as separate and false as the last.
When this game of delusion gets boring or painful enough, something within you begins to stir. Out of the unsatisfactoriness of separation arises the intuition that there is something more real than you are now conscious of. It is the intuition that there is truth, although you do not know what it is. But you know, you intuit, that truth exists, truth that has absolutely nothing to do with your ideas about it. But somehow you know that the truth about you and all of life exists.
Once you receive this intuition, this revelation, you will be compelled to find it. You will have no choice in the matter. You will have consciously begun the authentic quest for enlightenment, and there is no turning back. Life as you’ve known it will never be quite the same.
A great Zen master said, “Do not seek the truth; simply cease cherishing illusions.” If there is a primary practice or path to enlightenment, this is it—to cease cherishing illusions. Seeking truth can be a game, complete with a new identity as a truth-seeker fueled by new ideas and beliefs. But ceasing to cherish illusions is no game; it’s a gritty and intimate form of deconstructing yourself down to nothing. Get rid of all of your illusions and what’s left is the truth. You don’t find truth as much as you stumble upon it when you have cast away your illusions.
As the master said, “Do not seek the truth.” But you can’t stop seeking just because some ancient Zen master said to. Seeking is an energy, a movement toward something. Spiritual seekers are moving toward God, nirvana, enlightenment, ultimate truth, whatever. To seek something, you must have at least some vague idea or image of what it is you are seeking. But ultimate truth is not an idea or an image or something attained anew. So, to seek truth as something objective is a waste of time and energy. Truth can’t be found by seeking it, simply because truth is what you are. Seeking what you are is as silly as your shoes looking for their soles by walking in circles. What is the path that will lead your shoes to their soles? That’s why the Zen master said, “Do not seek the truth.” Instead, cease cherishing illusions.
To cease cherishing illusions is a way of inverting the energy of seeking. The energy of seeking will be there in one form or another until you wake up from the dream state. You can’t just get rid of it. You need to learn how to invert it and use the energy to deconstruct the illusions that hold your consciousness in the dream state. This sounds relatively simple, but the consequences can seem quite disorienting, even threatening. I’m not talking about a new spiritual technique here; I’m talking about a radically different orientation to the whole of your spiritual life. This is not a little thing. It is a very big thing, and your best chance of awakening depends on it. “Do not seek the truth; simply cease cherishing illusions.” And if you’re like most spiritually oriented people, your spirituality is your most cherished illusion. Imagine that.
© 2007 by Adyashanti.
Inexplicably it comes. When you least expect it. For a reason you can never know. One moment you are striving, figuring, imagining, and then, in the blink of an eye, it all disappears. The struggle disappears. The striving disappears. The person disappears. The world disappears. Everything disappears, and the person is like a pinpoint of light, just receding until it disappears. And there’s nobody there to witness it. The person is gone. Only, only awareness remains. Nothing else. No one to be aware. Nothing to be aware of. Only that remains itself. Then it’s understood, finally and simply.
Then everything—all the struggle, all the striving, all the thinking, all the figuring, all the surrendering, all the letting go, all the grabbing hold of, all the praying, all the begging, all the cursing, too—was just a distraction. And only then is it seen that the person was, is, and ever will be no more than a thought. With a single thought, the person seems to reemerge. With more thoughts, the world seems to reemerge right out of nothing. But now you know.
The incarnation is nothing more than a thought. A thousand incarnations are but a thousand thoughts. And this amazing miracle of a mirage we call the world reappears as it was before, but now you know. That’s why you usually have a good laugh, because you realize that all your struggles were made up. You conjured them up out of nothing—with a thought that was linked to another thought, that was then believed, that linked to another thought that was then believed. But never could it have been true, not for a second could it have actually existed. Not ever could you have actually suffered for a reason that was true—only through an imagination, good, bad, indifferent. The intricacies of spiritual philosophy and theologies are just a thought within Emptiness.
And so at times we talk, and I pretend to take your struggles seriously, just as I pretended to take my own seriously. You may pretend to take your own struggles seriously from time to time, and although we pretend, we really shouldn’t forget that we are pretending, that we are making up the content of our experience; we are making up the little dramas of our lives. We are making up whether we need to hold on or surrender or figure it out or pray to God or be purified or have karma cleansed—it’s all a thought. We just collude in this ridiculous charade of an illusion pretending that it’s real, only to reveal that it’s not. There is no karma. There is nothing really to purify. There’s no problem. There is only what you create and believe to be so. And if you like it that way, have at it!
But we cannot continue this absolute farce indefinitely. We cannot continue to pretend this game we play, indefinitely. It’s impossible. Everything comes back to nothing.
And then it’s a bit harder to hold a straight face consistently for the rest of your life.
Transcribed from a talk in Pacific Grove, CA, June 9, 2006.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
An Unfinished Poem by Adyashanti
Listen now, or lose your life, for what I have to say is what you have imagined in quiet moments but have failed to realize in full. Perhaps you were too timid or astonished at the critical moments, or couldn’t find the courage to step through the veil of your frail life when the door was opened for you.
Or perhaps you wanted to keep your life as your own, and chose to hold onto a few pennies when you could have had gold. No matter, for yesterday has passed into the dust of remembered dreams, and tomorrow’s story is yet to be written.
Which is precisely why you and I are now here together. You and I. You and I. Oh, the sheer mystery of it—how could anything be more grand? Stand with me here at the precipice and take my hand in yours, for I am good company to those ready to depart familiar ground. If not, then let loose of my hand now and take that of a more familiar companion. For where we stand is known, but our next step will not be—nor the one after or the one after that.
So shoulder all of your longing and intent and leave all else behind. I give you fair warning: The world you are about to leave will not be there when you return. For nothing truly left behind is ever the same upon our return. Let us not waste any more time on discussions or debates; you have surely been caught in those tide pools too long already. Too much talk is wearying to the soul and evades the spirit of things. Longing is the true measure of a man or woman and alone has the power to draw us out of ourselves and into the vast air of eternity. But we shall not rely only on the winds of longing, for they can be fickle and unpredictable. We shall also need the fire of intent—that fine-tipped arrow of courage flying true and straight to its goal, piercing through the fabric of our dreams as it goes.
This is as fair a day as any to begin the journey back to your origin. So lift your foot together with mine and we will step off the well-trodden paths and into the uncharted woods where the essence of things lies waiting for you to open your eyes.
It is time to begin watching your steps, dear companion. For you have already wasted the goodness of too many days stumbling along with the unconscious drove. Today I bid you to place no foot upon the earth without feeling the sinews, skin, and bone of your feet with each step. How awake you are to the least of things will determine how awake you become to the greatest in due time. For in the play of time, the great and manifold diversity of things in the end proves their unity. And it is toward the end that we are headed, for it is only by means of the end that we arrive here, on this spot, free and immortal.
I can see in your eyes a fear and confusion. All this talk of endings brings a tremble to your bones. But fear not, for I do not speak of death or chaos except to point out that you have already fallen prey to both. No, I talk of awakening from the death of sleepwalking in dreams and veiled imagination. Beyond the veil all is well, and more well than I can attest. Within the immortality of what you are, there is a contentment and peace born only of your true identity.
Have you not been told how grand you are, how uncontained, how limitless? I for one maintain that you are as unseen and eternal as the space that spans beyond the myriad universes. I praise the immortal self—not one self among many, but the self within all selves. For everywhere I go, and in each and everyone I meet, I greet my secret and unseen self. For I know each man and each woman as I know myself, none greater or lesser in essence or worth.
I have no desire or pull toward the gods, nor sacred relics, nor holy books. For I have waded through the various dogmas and found them lacking the essential vision, the unitary glance that reveals God’s hand within every gesture. Why should we go looking for more than we are, when we are what we are looking for? Beware of a misguided longing, for it leads in the end to brutality. How much blood has already been spilled in God’s name and how much more to come?
I bid you, dear companion: Throw off the yoke of belief, for to arrive at the nobility of truth you must be cleansed of all borrowed knowledge till you are as innocent as the day before you were born. You must forge from within your longing a fiery sword of discrimination, unsheathed from the past—starting now on this hill we stand upon, determined to never again take anything secondhand, but instead prove true or false each statement yourself.
For truth belongs to neither man or woman, nor holy book, nor well-reasoned philosophy or belief, but only to itself—immortal and pure. I seek only to remove untruth from your mind so that you may be restored to the unitary vision which is your everlasting inheritance.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
To the extent that the fire of truth wipes out all fixated points of view, it wipes out inner contradictions as well, and we begin to move in a whole different way. The Way is the flow that comes from a place of non-contradiction—not from good and bad. Much less damage tends to be done from that place. Once we have reached the phase where there is no fixed self-concept, we tend to lead a selfless life. The only way to be selfless is to be self less—without a self. No matter what it does, a self isn’t going to be selfless. It can pretend. It can approximate selflessness, but a self is never going to be selfless because there is always an identified personal self at the root of it.
Being selfless isn’t a good, holy, or noble activity. It’s simply that when there is no self, selflessness happens. This selflessness is very different from having a moralistic standpoint. When action is selfless, it tends to do no harm. It tends to be the salvation, the secret alchemy that awakens and removes conflict. It’s a byproduct of not having a self. It just so happens that reality is overflowing with goodness and love.
This is radical emptiness—where everything is arising spontaneously. There is no more need to discriminate with the mind between what seems to be the right thing or the wrong thing to do. In ego-land it’s helpful to have an ego that can discriminate between right and wrong, but at a certain point, that’s not what you are operating by. You are operating by the flow of the Tao, which is a higher order of intelligence. You don’t need to intellectually discriminate anymore because the Tao discriminates without discriminating; it knows without knowing; it moves without moving. There is no sense of being enlightened or unenlightened. Since there is no self, there is nothing to be enlightened or unenlightened.
We can talk about enlightened beings and non-enlightened beings, and conceptually that has a use. But when there is no self, when there is radical emptiness, the whole enlightenment thing is sort of irrelevant because reality has become conscious of itself, which is enlightenment. That’s what is often missed. People believe that enlightenment is an improvement on reality, like becoming a super human being or God-knows-what. But enlightenment is when reality is awake to itself as itself within itself.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
What is it like to live an awakened life?
While the world is trying to solve its problems and everyone around you is engaged in the same, you’re not. While everybody around you is trying to figure it out, trying to arrive, trying to “get there,” trying to be worthy, you’re not. While everyone thinks that awakening is a grand, noble, halo-enshrouded thing, for you it’s not. While everybody is running from this life right now, in this moment, to try to get there, you’re not. Where everybody has an argument with somebody else, mostly everybody else, starting with themselves, you don’t. Where everybody is so sure that happiness will come when something is different than it is now, you know that it won’t. When everybody else is looking to achieve the perfect state and hold on to it, you’re not.
When everybody around you has a whole host of ideas and beliefs about a whole variety of things, you don’t. Everyone on the path is getting there; you haven’t gotten anywhere. Everyone is climbing the mountain; you’re selling hiking boots and picks at the foot in the hope that if they climb it and come back down, they may be too exhausted to do it again. When everybody else is looking to the next book, to the next teacher, to the next guru to be told what’s real, to be given the secret key to an awakened life, you’re not. You don’t have a key because there’s not a lock to put it in.
When you’re living what you are in an awakened way, being simply what you’ve always been, you’re actually very simple. You basically sit around wondering what all the fuss is about.
When everyone is sitting around saying, “I hope that happens to me,” you remember when you did that. You remember that you didn’t find a solution to that. You remember that the whole idea that there was a problem created all of that.
When you’re being what you are, when you’re living the awakened life, there’s nobody to forgive, because there’s no resentment held, no matter what.
The truth of your being doesn’t crave happiness; it couldn’t actually care less. It doesn’t crave love, not because you are so full of love, but because it just doesn’t crave love. It’s very simple. It doesn’t seek to be known, regarded highly, or understood. When you’re living what you are in an awakened way, there’s no ideal for you anymore. You’ve stepped off the entire cycle of suffering, of becoming; you’re not interested.
It’s a curious life you find yourself in. You find yourself . . . where you are. Not where I am—where you are, where you really are, where we really are. It’s a curious place to be (especially in the beginning) not to be driven by anything—pleasure or displeasure, helping or hurting, loving or hating. The only thing that will move you (and I don’t mean to be too poetic about this) is the same thing that moves a leaf hanging from a tree. It’s simply because the breeze blows that way. So you always know what to do. The breeze blows that way, and that’s the way you go. You don’t ask questions anymore. You don’t evaluate why the breeze is blowing that way because you know that you don’t know why. And you know you can’t know why. There’s never been a leaf anywhere that knows why the wind blows that way on that day at that moment. That breeze changes the orientation of your life, moment to moment to moment, simply because that’s the way life’s moving. And when you’re living in your awakened self, you have no argument with the way it’s moving because it is the same as you are.
And you know that the breeze was always there, from the very beginning, and that it wasn’t reserved for special people. If you didn’t notice it at some point in your life, you know it was because you weren’t listening, or because you thought you had to figure something out before you could listen, or because you thought there had to be some conclusion before you could just listen so deeply, so without agenda, so without hope of a better future that you would feel the movement.
Many of you know what I’m speaking of.
Truth never explains why it’s moving that way at that moment. And if you ask, it won’t give any information. It would be like a leaf asking the wind, “Why are you moving that way right now?” The question doesn’t make any sense to the wind.
But your argument with the way the truth would move—whatever that way is—is no longer there for you. You’re no longer arguing with it. You’re no longer trying to figure it out. Mother Mary didn’t figure it out. Buddha didn’t figure it out. Ramana didn’t figure it out. None of them figured it out. They just became That. Simple. Ordinary, in the same way a leaf is ordinary.
When you’re living in your awakened being and living in an awakened way, power on any level is not an issue for you. It’s not interesting. The power to control another human being is not interesting. Intellectual power is not interesting. The power to control yourself is not interesting. The power that people want to give you is not interesting to you—not because it shouldn’t be; it’s just not. What would you want to do with it? You see that there’s nothing you want to do with it.
You realize, in the truth of your being, that you are the totality itself, but you have no interest whatsoever in doing anything with that knowledge, with using that knowledge.
Finally, you realize that you really don’t want to change anybody, not because you shouldn’t want to change them, because you just don’t. You might not want to be around everyone, but still you don’t want to change them.
None of this is an ideal—it’s the end of ideals. None of this is holiness; it’s the end of holiness. It’s the beginning of wholeness. None of this is something to achieve, because it’s not achievable. It’s simply what is in the truth of your being. It’s just what is. You can’t attain what’s naturally so. And nobody anywhere can ever tell you when or why, or to what degree you’ll let go of untruth; you will let go when you let go, usually when nothing else works.
When you’re living in the awakened way, in the awakened being that you are, you’re alone, and you’re finally comfortable with it. You’re alone, but you’re not lonely at all, because the only one who was ever supposed to meet you where you are—the only one who ever could meet you where you are one hundred percent—was you. Nobody else could ever fully meet you where you are—maybe ninety percent, maybe ninety-five. Nobody can meet you fully but you. When you finally do, then you don’t need anybody else to do it for you. Then you’re alone, more alone than you could ever imagine. And strangely—very strangely—you are more connected, more intimate, more at one with everything. More. And you would have never thought that those two could in any way be together: total aloneness and total oneness. You would have never guessed that that’s the way it would end up. But it does, and it always has.
And finally, when you’re just living in the awakened way that you really are, you’ll never form an image again of what it’s like. Even as it’s happening, you won’t form an image because you’ll know they’re all images, dust. The way it was yesterday won’t be the way it is today.
© 2003 by Adyashanti. Awakened Living Intensive. Berkeley, CA. October 5, 2003
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