Spiritual seekers are some of the most superstitious people on the planet. Most people come to spiritual teachers and teachings with a host of hidden beliefs, ideas, and assumptions that they unconsciously seek to be confirmed. And if they are willing to question these beliefs, they almost always replace the old concepts with new, more spiritual ones, thinking that these new concepts are far more real than the old ones.
Even those who have had deep spiritual experiences and awakenings beyond the mind will in most cases continue to cling to superstitious ideas and beliefs in an unconscious effort to grasp for the security of the known, the accepted, or the expected. It is this grasping for security in all its inward and outward forms which limits the perspective of enlightenment and maintains an inwardly divided condition which is the cause of all suffering and confusion.
You must want to know the truth more than you want to feel secure in order to fully awaken to the fact that you are nothing but Awakeness itself.
Shortly after I began teaching, I noticed that almost everyone coming to see me held a tremendous number of superstitious ideas and beliefs that were distorting their perceptions and limiting their scope of spiritual inquiry. What was most surprising was that in almost all cases, even those who had deep and profound experiences of spiritual awakening continued to hold onto superstitious ideas and beliefs which severally limited the depth of experience and expression of true awakening.
Over time I began to see how delicate and challenging it was for most seekers to find the courage to question any and all ideas and beliefs about the true nature of themselves, the world, others, and even enlightenment itself. In almost every person, every religion, every group, every teaching and every teacher, there are ideas, beliefs, and assumptions that are overtly or covertly not open to question. Often these unquestioned beliefs hide superstitions which are protecting something which is untrue, contradictory, or being used as justification for behavior which is a less than enlightened.
The challenge of enlightenment is not simply to glimpse the awakened condition, nor even to continually experience it, but to be and express it as yourself in the way you move in this world. In order to do this, you must come out of hiding behind any superstitious beliefs and find the courage to question everything, otherwise you will continue to hold onto superstitions which distort your perception and expression of that which is only ever awake.
© 1999 by Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
Spiritual people often want unconditional support and understanding from their friends, family, and mates, but all too often seem blind to their own shortcomings when it comes to the amount of unconditional support and understanding that they give to others. I have seen many spiritual people become obsessed with how unspiritual others are and assume an arrogant and superior attitude while completely missing the fact that they themselves are not nearly as spiritually enlightened as they would like to think they are.
Enlightenment can be measured by how compassionately and wisely you interact with others—with all others, not just those who support you in the way that you want. How you interact with those who do not support you shows how enlightened you really are.
As long as you perceive that anyone is holding you back, you have not taken full responsibility for your own liberation. Liberation means that you stand free of making demands on others and life to make you happy. When you discover yourself to be nothing but Freedom, you stop setting up conditions and requirements that need to be satisfied in order for you to be happy.
It is in the absolute surrender of all conditions and requirements that Liberation is discovered to be who and what you are. Then the love and wisdom that flows out of you has a liberating effect on others. The biggest challenge for most spiritual seekers is to surrender their self importance, and see the emptiness of their own personal story. It is your personal story that you need to awaken from in order to be free.
To give up being either ignorant or enlightened is the mark of liberation and allows you to treat others as your Self. What I am describing is the birth of true Love.
© 1998 by Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
Life without a reason, a purpose, a position... the mind is frightened of this because then "my life" is over with, and life lives itself and moves from itself in a totally different dimension. This way of living is just life moving. That's all.
As soon as the mind pulls out an agenda and decides what needs to change, that's unreality. Life doesn't need to decide who's right and who's wrong. Life doesn't need to know the "right" way to go because it's going there anyway. Then you start to get a hint of why the mind, in a deep sense of liberation, tends to get very quiet. It doesn't have its job anymore. It has its usefulness, but it doesn't have its full-time occupation of sustaining an intricately fabricated house of cards.
This stillness of awareness is all there is. It's all one. This awareness and life are one thing, one movement, one happening, in this moment -- unfolding without reason, without goal, without direction. The ultimate state is ever present and always now. The only thing that makes it difficult to find that state and remain in that state is people wanting to retain their position in space and time. "I want to know where I'm going. I want to know if I've arrived. I want to know who to love and hate. I want to know. I don't really want to be; I want to know. Isn't enlightenment the ultimate state of knowing?" No. It's the ultimate state of being. The price is knowing.
This is the beautiful thing about the truth: ever-present, always here, totally free, given freely. It's already there. That which is ever-presently awake is free, free for the "being." But the only way that there's total and final absolute homecoming is when the humanness presents itself with the same unconditionality. Every time a human being touches into that unconditionality, it's such peace and fulfillment.
In your humanity, there's the natural expression of joy and love and compassion and caring and total unattachment. Those qualities instantly transmute into humanness when you touch into emptiness. Emptiness becomes love. That's the human experience of emptiness, that source, that ever-present awakeness. For the humanness to lay itself down -- your mind, your body, your hopes, your dreams, everything -- to lay itself down in the same unconditional manner in which awareness is ever present, only then is there the direct experience of unity, that you and the highest truth are really one thing. It expresses itself through your humanity, through openness, through love. The divine becomes human and the human becomes divine -- not in any "high and mighty" sense, but just in the sense of reality. That's the way it is.
The only price is all of our positions. The only price is that you stop paying a price.
Copyright ©2004 Adyashanti.
Many seekers do not take full responsibility for their own liberation, but wait for one big, final spiritual experience which will catapult them fully into it. It is this search for the final liberating experience which gives rise to a rampant form of spiritual consumerism in which seekers go from one teacher to another, shopping for enlightenment as if shopping for sweets in a candy store. This spiritual promiscuity is rapidly turning the search for enlightenment into a cult of experience seekers. And, while many people indeed have powerful experiences, in most cases these do not lead to the profound transformation of the individual, which is the expression of enlightenment.
In speaking regularly with spiritual seekers, it dawned on me one day how addicted so many of them are to the power of charisma. They swap stories about how powerful this or that teacher is and compare experiences. They get a charge from it, many mistaking charisma for enlightenment. Charisma attracts at all levels: political, sexual, spiritual, etc., and it feeds the ego's desire to feel special. The ego loves getting hits of power—it's like a form of spiritual candy. The candy may be sweet but can you live on it? Does it make you free?
Freedom is not necessarily exciting; it's just free. Very peaceful and quiet, so very quiet. Of course, it is also filled with joy and wonder, but it is not what you imagine. It is much, much less. Many mistake the intoxicating power of otherworldly charisma for enlightenment. More often than not it is simply otherworldly, and not necessarily free or enlightened. In order to be truly free, you must desire to know the truth more than you want to feel good. Because if feeling good is your goal, then as soon as you feel better you will lose interest in what is true. This does not mean that feeling good or experiencing love and bliss is a bad thing. Given the choice, anyone would choose to feel bliss rather than sorrow. It simply means that if this desire to feel good is stronger than the yearning to see, know, and experience Truth, then this desire will always be distorting the perception of what is Real, while corrupting one's deepest integrity.
In my experience, everyone will say they want to discover the Truth, right up until they realize that the Truth will rob them of their deepest held ideas, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. The freedom of enlightenment means much more than the experience of love and peace. It means discovering a Truth that will turn your view of self and life upside-down. For one who is truly ready, this will be unimaginably liberating. But for one who is still clinging in any way, this will be extremely challenging indeed. How does one know if they are ready? One is ready when they are willing to be absolutely consumed, when they are willing to be fuel for a fire without end.
If you start playing the game of being an "enlightened somebody," the true teacher is going to call you on it. He or she is going to expose you, and that exposure is going to hurt. Because the ego will be there, standing in the light of Truth, exposed and humiliated. Of course, the ego will cry "foul!" It will claim that the teacher made a mistake and begin to justify itself in an effort to put its protective clothing back on. It will begin to spin justifications with incredible subtlety and deceptiveness. This is where real spiritual sadhana (practice) begins. This is where it all becomes very real and the student discovers whether he or she truly wants to be free, or merely wants to remain as a false, separate, and self-justifying ego. This crossroad inevitably comes and is always challenging. It separates the true seeker from the false one. The true seeker will be willing to bare the grace of humility, whereas the false seeker will run from it. Thus begins the true path to enlightenment, granted only to those willing to be nobody. Discovering your "nobodyness" opens the door to awakening as beingness, and beyond that to the Source of all beingness.
Do not think that enlightenment is going to make you special—it's not. If you feel special in any way, then enlightenment has not occurred. I meet a lot of people who think they are enlightened and awake simply because they have had a very moving spiritual experience. They wear their enlightenment on their sleeve like a badge of honor. They sit among friends and talk about how awake they are while sipping coffee at a cafe.
The funny thing about enlightenment is that when it is authentic, there is no one to claim it. Enlightenment is very ordinary; it is nothing special. Rather than making you more special, it is going to make you less special. It plants you right in the center of a wonderful humility and innocence. Everyone else may or may not call you enlightened, but when you are enlightened the whole notion of enlightenment and someone who is enlightened is a big joke. I use the word enlightenment all the time—not to point you toward it but to point you beyond it. Do not get stuck in enlightenment.
Ego is the movement of the mind toward objects of perception in the form of grasping, and away from objects in the form of aversion. This fundamentally is all the ego is. This movement of grasping and aversion gives rise to a sense of a separate "me," and in turn the sense of "me" strengthens itself this way. It is this continuous loop of causation that tricks consciousness into a trance of identification. Identification with what? Identification with the continuous loop of suffering. After all, who is suffering? The "me" is suffering. And who is this me? It is nothing more than a sense of self caused by identification with grasping and aversion. You see, it's all a creation of the mind, an endless movie, a terrible dream. Don't try to change the dream, because trying to change it is just another movement in the dream. Look at the dream. Be aware of the dream. That awareness is It. Become more interested in the awareness of the dream than in the dream itself. What is that awareness? Who is that awareness? Don't go spouting out an answer, just be the answer. Be It.
Enlightenment means the end of all division. It is not simply having an occasional experience of unity beyond all division, it is actually being undivided. This is what nonduality truly means. It means there is just one Self, without a difference or gap between the profound revelation of Oneness and the way it is perceived and lived every moment of life. Nonduality means that the inner revelation and the outer expression of the personality are one and the same. So few seem to be interested in the greater implication contained within profound spiritual experiences, because it is the contemplation of these implications which quickly brings to awareness the inner divisions existing within most seekers.
Spiritual people can be some of the most violent people you will ever meet. Mostly, they are violent to themselves. They violently try to control their minds, their emotions, and their bodies. They become upset with themselves and beat themselves up for not rising up to the conditioned mind's idea of what it believes enlightenment to be. No one ever became free through such violence. Why is it that so few people are truly free? Because they try to conform to ideas, concepts, and beliefs in their heads. They try to concentrate their way to heaven. But Freedom is about the natural state, the spontaneous and unselfconscious expression of beingness. If you want to find it, see that the very idea of a someone who is in control is a concept created by the mind. Take one step backward into the unknown.
There is nothing more insidiously destructive to the attainment of liberation than self-doubt and cynicism. Doubt is a movement of the conditioned mind that always claims that “It's not possible,” that “Freedom is not possible for me.” Doubt always knows; it "knows" that nothing is possible. And in this knowing, doubt robs you of the possibility of anything truly new or transformative from happening. Furthermore, doubt is always accompanied by a pervasive cynicism that unconsciously puts a negative spin on whatever it touches. Cynicism is a world view which protects the ego from scrutiny by maintaining a negative stance in relationship to what it does not know, does not want to know, or cannot know. Many spiritual seekers have no idea how cynical and doubt-laden they actually are. It is this blindness and denial of the presence of doubt and cynicism that makes the birth of a profound trust impossible, a trust without which final liberation will always remain simply a dream.
All fear comes from thought in the form of memory (past) or projection (future). Thought creates time: past, present, and future. So fear exists and comes from the perceived existence of time. To be free of fear is to be free of time. Since time is a creation of thought, to be free of fear you must be free of thought. Consequently, it is important to awaken and experience your Self outside of thought, existing as eternity. So question all notions of yourself that are creations of thought and of time—of past, present, and future. Experience your eternalness, your holiness, your awakeness until you are convinced that you are never subject to the movement of thought, of fear, or of time. To be free of fear is to be full of Love.
Many spiritual seekers get "stuck in emptiness,” in the absolute, in transcendence. They cling to bliss, or peace, or indifference. When the self-centered motivation for living disappears, many seekers become indifferent. They see the perfection of all existence and find no reason for doing anything, including caring for themselves or others. I call this "taking a false refuge." It is a very subtle egoic trap; it's a fixation in the absolute and all unconscious form of attachment that masquerades as liberation. It can be very difficult to wake someone up from this deceptive fixation because they literally have no motivation to let go of it. Stuck in a form of divine indifference, such people believe they have reached the top of the mountain when actually they are hiding out halfway up its slope.
Enlightenment does not mean one should disappear into the realm of transcendence. To be fixated in the absolute is simply the polar opposite of being fixated in the relative. With the dawning of true enlightenment, there is a tremendous birthing of impersonal Love and wisdom that never fixates in any realm of experience. To awaken to the absolute view is profound and transformative, but to awaken from all fixed points of view is the birth of true nonduality. If emptiness cannot dance, it is not true emptiness. If moonlight does not flood the empty night sky and reflect in every drop of water, on every blade of grass, then you are only looking at your own empty dream. I say, “Wake up!” Then your heart will be flooded with a Love that you cannot contain.
Maybe I can point you to the great Reality within you. Maybe you will awaken to the direct experience of Self-realization. Maybe you will catch the fire of transmission. But there is one thing that no one can give you: the honesty and integrity that alone will bring you completely to the other shore. No one can give you the strength of character necessary for profound spiritual experience to become the catalyst for the evolutionary transformation called "enlightenment." Only you can find that passion within that burns with an integrity that will not settle for anything less than the Truth.
Enlightenment has nothing to do with states of consciousness. Whether you are in ego consciousness or unity consciousness is not really the point. I have met many people who have easy access to advanced states of consciousness. Though for some people this may come very easily, I also notice that many of these people are no freer than anyone else. If you don't believe that the ego can exist in very advanced states of consciousness, think again. The point isn't the state of consciousness, even very advanced ones, but an awake mystery that is the source of all states of consciousness. It is even the source of presence and beingness. It is beyond all perception and all experience. I call it "awakeness." To find out that you are empty of emptiness is to die into an aware mystery, which is the source of all existence. It just so happens that that mystery is in love with all of its manifestation and non-manifestation. You find your Self by stepping back out of yourself.
Ramana Maharshi's gift to the world was not that he realized the Self. Many people have had a deep realization of the Self. Ramana's real gift was that he embodied that realization so thoroughly. It is one thing to realize the Self; it is something else altogether to embody that realization to the extent that there is no gap between inner revelation and its outer expression. Many have glimpsed the realization of Oneness; few consistently express that realization through their humanness. It is one thing to touch a flame and know it is hot, but quite another to jump into that flame and be consumed by it.
First published in the Inner Directions Journal, Fall/Winter 1999.
© 1999 Adyashanti.
Everything that’s spoken in satsang is only meant to strike a recognition, an aliveness, a remembrance in this moment, and nothing more. The truth is only true if it’s living for you, for me. If it’s alive within us, it’s real, and it transcends anything we could say about it. If the truth remains only in its spoken form it dies. Even your own insight, if it becomes rigidified in your mind, will die. Even the greatest sutras die as soon as they aren’t alive within somebody. When they become just words they die because all teachings, the truest teachings, need you and me to bring them to life, to find the life within them. When you find the life, then you can bow to the teaching and be the living of it. At that point the words don’t mean a whole lot.
I think of this teaching as I think of this sangha. The reason we call it “Open Gate” Sangha is that just like the teaching, the sangha is something for this moment. This is the sangha -- whether or not we’ve met each other before -- this is it. After we leave this gathering, as soon as you walk out the door, the next person you meet is your sangha. Then you go home, and that’s your sangha. Then you go to the grocery store, and that’s your sangha. Then if we come back together someday, that becomes sangha. It’s not a fixed form, it’s not a club. The door is open on the way in and open on the way out. Both doors are open so that something can keep flowing. It isn’t a community we join -- except at our birth. We’re birthed into sangha, into sacred community. It’s called the world. It’s flowing and it moves, and as soon as you don’t move with it, it dies, does it not? The teaching dies if it doesn’t stay fresh. Your own realization dies if you don’t move with it. That’s why I always suggest to live in a state of discovery -- not a state of discovery where you are looking for an ultimate conclusion, for that’s the greatest illusion of all. Live in a state of discovery because that’s how the truth lives.
Excerpted from a talk in Pacific Grove, CA on September 16, 2005.
© Adyashanti 2013
Anybody can awaken to the truth of being. And yet, when it is realized, often the person who has committed a large portion of his or her life to the spiritual path is more readily able to let go and flow with that realization than the person who hasn’t been on a spiritual path. Does that have anything to do with some sort of merit earned by sitting on a meditation cushion, or whatever the spiritual practice was? Absolutely not! It has nothing to do with that. It has nothing whatever to do with preparing the field, tilling the soil, or fertilizing the soul. It’s just that it’s possible, though not a guarantee, that someone who has made the spiritual search his or her priority in life is already in fidelity to truth when realization happens. Realization was wanted more than anything else, and his or her life has been a living, walking, breathing demonstration of this fidelity.
But if those who walk in off the street and realize the truth of their being want it just as much as those who put in decades of spiritual practice, guess what? They are at no disadvantage whatsoever. None. Zero. And by the way, having put decades into the spiritual life and spiritual practice does not necessarily mean that we actually value the truth more than anything else. It’s no guarantee. But to take awakening into enlightenment requires a certain sort of fierce commitment to the truth. It is a surrender to what is realized, a surrender to not be moved in the face of anything. And for anybody who loves the truth, really loves the truth, this surrender is not going to be avoided.
In the past, the deepest spiritual teachings were reserved for a very small part of the spiritual population. Those were the people who became monks or nuns or sadhus (renunciants), and committed their entire existence to get the teachings. You couldn’t get the teachings until you’d done that, walked away from family and friends and life as you knew it, and put everything on the line. And even then, teachers wouldn’t give the teachings to you immediately. They’d probably make you wait some years. Why? Because those few enlightened beings knew that to really take awakening to enlightenment or liberation was going to require that kind of commitment, that kind of love of the truth, and the kind of person who would put all their eggs into that basket, right there.
Today you do not have to live in that rarified spiritual environment or commit your entire life to get the teachings of the truth. And yet, to realize the truth and then take it all the way into living and being what you really are, fully and completely, the internal commitment is not any less. It can’t be any less because nothing less than a full, internal love of truth will do. If you love anything more than you love the truth, there’s no way this realization can complete itself. You can realize it, you can awaken, and you can have a nice enlightenment experience, but it’s not going to be something that’s going to be stable and effortless, or last forever. That’s just the physics of it. I’m not writing the rules. It’s just the way things are.
When you realize the truth, then you know that this truth is not fooling around. This truth wants you, and it wants your life, and it’s going to devour you and eat you up for dinner. The truth is not playing games. I’ve had more than one person say, “Adya, how do I turn this off? How do I back out of this deal? This isn’t what I signed up for.” And the only answer is, “Sorry, it’s too late, you can’t back out. You can walk away from me and from all teachers, and from spirituality altogether. You can go to the end of the earth and play some other game, but it’s too late. You can’t unrealize what you realize.” It’s a game until it’s not, but by the time you realize that it’s not a game, you can’t back out.
By and large, people want liberation, freedom, bliss, peace, love, and total release from fear. They want all the accoutrements of enlightenment without having to pay the price. They don’t want to pay the price of a total love affair, a total commitment. I’m not speaking of anything that is separate or different from your life. This doesn’t have anything to do with the monastery or leaving your day-to-day existence. The truth is here in every single moment of your life. That’s the truth. It’s not separate from your life. You can’t run away from yourself and your life in order to awaken to reality. Your life is your path to awakening. Stop and open your eyes: You were free from the very beginning.
Please understand that it’s not you that wakes up; it’s reality that wakes up, the truth wakes up. You are not enlightened; enlightenment is enlightened. Ultimately this realization doesn’t have anything to do with individuals, since there aren’t any separate individuals. That is the whole illusion, that there is something separate from the ultimate reality. When it’s clear that there’s nothing going on other than the ultimate reality, it’s a done deal -- enlightenment is effortless.
Excerpted from a talk in Mountain View, California, March 13, 2003.
© Adyashanti 2013
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