To Understand Is to Stand Prior to the Self-Contraction – a talk by Da Free John – December 28, 1982


To Understand Is to
Stand Prior to the Self-Contraction


A talk by Adi Da Samraj (Da Free
, December 28,


MASTER DA: Our activity in
any moment can be characterized, as I have characterized it
in general, as
But the self-contraction takes on many forms according to
the various functions of our manifest personality. One of
the forms of the self contraction is compulsive thought –
not mere thought, which has a conventional usage, but
compulsive thought, or thought that generates a feeling of
alienation or separates us from simple Communion with

Thus, the mind is Narcissus. When
the mind is displayed in these binding terms, we must
understand the self-contraction as mind. The essence of the
self-contraction as mind is the presumption that you know
what things are. Thus, you rattle on and on and on in a
compulsive, mental fashion, acknowledging the factual
existence of various things. And then you take on these
thoughts in an emotional and physical form as


“To stand prior to
the self contraction… is the beginning of the spiritual


Sit down, let the mind wander, and
you think about all kinds of things. Certain thoughts arise
and you start developing a negative emotional response, odd
physical discomfort – all the bodily, mental, and emotional
signs of self-contraction. You may develop desires on the
basis of these thoughts. And then the next thing you are
doing is acting on the basis of those thoughts. You are
being sexual, getting drunk, running around the streets,
looking for something, reading something. You try to do
something suggested by the problem of thinking.

Rather than trying to stop thought
itself, as if a thought were a problem or a disease to be
cured, we should simply understand ourselves in this moment,
and by understanding ourselves, go beyond the self
contraction, or realize that we already stand prior to the
self-contraction. Then we awaken to a natural capacity to
inhere in the Real or to be intimate with what simply

Awakening to this capacity is the
beginning of the spiritual process. When we enjoy this
natural capacity to stand prior to the self-contraction,
then we also notice that more and more we are enjoying an
economized mind and an economized life-process altogether.
We are not compulsively thinking and therefore we are not
compulsively being emotionally reactive. We are not
compulsively desiring or feeling physically affected by
thought and reactive emotion. We are not compulsively acting
in all kinds of ways that disturb us and throw us out of

To stand in the native position
prior to the self-contraction does not bring functional life
to an end but economizes it. Thus, the most fundamental
thing that we must realize is the native capacity to be
merely present. Considered in terms of the activity of mind,
therefore, the capacity to stand in the native position is a
matter of realizing in this moment that you do not know what
anything is. It is a matter of perceiving things without
knowing what they are. It is just a matter of perception, of
awareness, of associating intuitively with the Mystery of
mere existence. No question, no answer just this present


“The first thing
we must do is understand ourselves and simply stand in the
native position”


There is a great Potency in this
practice, and that great Potency is what we must discover
next. It is what we must see and receive through Spiritual
Baptism. That great Potency is what we must surrender to
through the spiritual process, through conductivity, or
whole bodily or psycho-physical submission to the Living
Current. That is what we must Realize our Identity with.
That is what we must enter into most profoundly through the
conscious process.

Therefore, the first thing we must
do is understand ourselves and simply stand in the native
position. It is not a matter of trying stressfully to quiet
yourself, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is
simply to be present. Considered in terms of the mind, it is
to be present without presuming that you know what anything
is-which should not be difficult, you see, because, you do
not know what anything is.

You absolutely do not know what
anything is. You absolutely do not know. And you cannot
know, in the terms of mind, because mind does not know what
anything is. Mind is simply a contemplation or reflection of
the factuality of things. Mind never encloses this Mystery.
Mind never gains control over It. To say that we can never
know what anything is does not mean that we cannot realize
what anything and everything is. What it means is that the
mind is not the mechanism whereby we know or realize what
everything is.

In order to confront Reality
directly we must stand prior to mind, prior to the
self-contraction. Therefore, this is the most fundamental
capacity to which we must re-awaken. The basic Arguments of
the Teaching, which are my basic service to you, develop
this capacity. When this capacity develops, then Spiritual
Transmission is the next form of my service to you. When
this capacity awakens and Spiritual Transmission is
received, then my next gift to you is all of the aspects of
practice whereby you express this understanding, this
surrender, your Communion with Reality. The practice is
founded, in other words, on prior hearing and then seeing,
and without these two steps the various practices are of no
ultimate use. People can take on these practices to improve
their lives, but that improvement is not associated with

A significant number of people are
trying to practice the Way in our community at this time,
but many of them are still trying to bypass the two
fundamental steps of hearing and seeing. They are trying to
involve themselves with various practices, but they have not
yet heard and seen. Or they are trying to develop practices
and want to see or receive my Baptism, but they have not yet
understood themselves. They have not awakened to the
capacity to why we have created the various divisions of
practice in our institution, and this is why we must
understand clearly what the practice, or the discipline, in
each of the stages of practice is.

Therefore, the first thing for
people who are approaching the Way to do is simply to listen
to the Teaching Argument in public, read some of the books,
and become students in The Laughing Man Institute. In The
Laughing Man Institute, they simply study the Teaching, not
merely by reading it, but by involving themselves in a
program of study that should call them to seriously consider
the Teaching and to bring themselves into association with
its Argument. Only when the Teaching has begun to make its
point can the various practical disciplines become a useful
expression of that hearing. Then one qualifies for
membership in The Free Communion Church and gradually
develops further disciplines of meditation, conductivity,
and so forth.

Thus, the consideration of the basic
Arguments is fundamental to the Way from the beginning and
at every stage. It never stops being useful. It is always
fundamental, because we are not merely involved in regimes
of practice, of conductivity and meditative exercises as
such. All of our practices must be founded in understanding
or the capacity to stand prior to the self-contraction in
the present. Without that capacity, the practices are of no
ultimate use.

Thus, we must constantly regenerate
and magnify the capacity to stand prior to the
self-contraction. Therefore, the study or consideration of
the basic Arguments of the Teaching is fundamental to the
Way at every stage. Similarly, Spirit-Baptism is not to be
received just once in some experiential occasion. It is to
be constantly received. You must develop the capacity
through self-understanding to be submitted to this
Transmission constantly.

Understanding in our Way is not
merely a matter of thoughtful self study or knowing in
psychiatric terms how you work as a bound personality. You
must not merely know that you function as Narcissus as a
matter of mere conventional knowledge or self-description,
but you must understand yourself in those terms in this
moment and transcend the self contraction through
understanding. You must use the Arguments of the Teaching to
the point of regenerating the native capacity to stand prior
to the self-contraction, noticing that native position again
and becoming capable of being it. Then you can make use of
my Baptism continuously. Then you can also express that
hearing and seeing through all the various disciplines of
conductivity and real meditation. You will develop those
disciplines by stages as you magnify the disposition that is
awakened through understanding.

There is no understanding where
there are simply new models of self description in the mind.
Understanding is expressed only in the capacity to stand
prior to the self-contraction. Eventually, perhaps, the
practice of enquiry in the form “Avoiding relationship?” may
become a right, expressive, and useful means of magnifying
this understanding. But at the beginning, just studying the
Arguments of the Teaching functions as the conscious process
with the same force as enquiry. This original, basic study
of the considerations of the Teaching regenerates the
capacity to stand free of the sell-contraction.

The first step in this process of
regeneration is to observe yourself, and notice how you
function as the self-contraction, so that, through such
feeling-observation, you develop sensitivity to your always
present Condition prior to that contraction. The various
disciplines associated with all of the three Ways’ that 1
have considered with _you express this understanding. It is
not merely the Way of Insight and the practice of enquiry
that express understanding. All forms of the Way express the
same fundamental disposition founded in understanding. It is
just that the three Ways describe the three basically unique
expressions of understanding, based on the character and
general preparation of each individual.

What, then, is to be realized most
fundamentally through considering these Arguments’? You are
by habit compulsively involved in the activity of
self-contraction expressed through every function. You are
adding this activity to existence. Notice that it is
contraction, notice that you are adding it to existence, and
notice, therefore, that it is not necessary. Notice that you
are always in the position of That which you are before you
add the activity of self-contraction to

What, then, is your actual state?
Your actual state is simply to be present, without this
compulsive activity, thinking you know what things are,
reacting with self-contracted or negative emotions,
contracting physically, contracting from the Life-Force,
contracting from others. You are already in the prior
Condition, because you inhere in That and, therefore, you
need not struggle with the activity of self-contraction. You
need only understand it and simply stand naturally Awake. Be
in that natively surrendered position. Then you can receive
the Blessing Power of the Divine in practice.

DEVOTEE: To stand naturally
Awake seems to be a matter of inhering in the natural
disposition of relationship to you, without concern for the
mechanical process of the self-contraction, allowing myself
to feel it arise, but no longer giving it energy.

MASTER DA: If you are giving
energy to the activity of self-contraction, then you are
perpetuating it. Thus, through understanding and native
submission you grant attention and energy to the Real
Condition. If you grant attention and energy to That, then
you are not granting energy and attention to these
mechanical efforts of self-contraction. Therefore, the
wonderful talent of this genius, or Siddhi, for practice is
basically a matter of regenerating the capacity to grant
energy and attention to our native state, or to Reality,
rather than to the instruments of our bondage, the
mechanisms of the ego. This is a natural capacity into which
we re-awaken through true understanding.

Master, when you were talking before about mind I thought of
the people who submit themselves to long periods in sensory
deprivation tanks, trying to quiet the mind and relax–the
body. What I have heard is that in those circumstances,
people can go crazy, because they have no wisdom culture
with which to understand what is arising.

MASTER DA: Yes. A sensory
deprivation tank is a flotation tank in which you are cut
off from all kinds of sensory input. The purpose of these
tanks is to help you to relax and become sensitive to
internal activity and energies.

Asceticism, you see, is a kind of
cultural sensory deprivation tank. It is the same thing
enlarged beyond a little tank in a room to a total way of
life in which you are basically depriving yourself
systematically of the associations of attention. It is based
on the model of disease and cure, problem and solution, a
question leading to an answer.

Asceticism, then, is a kind of
self-manipulation, not based on prior understanding, prior
freedom, prior Realization, but on the notion of self as a
problem to be solved, an entity to be destroyed or at least
profoundly changed and moved on to alternative experiences.
But asceticism does not have anything to do with the process
of spiritual life in Truth. It has to do with the
traditional convention of spiritual life as a search for
Truth, in which the ego is opposed as a problem and
manipulated in various ways.

The Way in Truth is based on
self-understanding, transcending the notion of self as a
problem, understanding the self-mechanism directly, so that
you stand free in immediate confrontation with the
unspeakable Mystery of Being. On that basis, you can
generate a natural, functional, relational discipline,
rather than a dissociated discipline.

The natural discipline in the Way
that I Teach requires that you be profoundly sensitive to
the context of your relations, your experiences, your
functions. It requires that you magnify the Realized
disposition in the context of your functional life, rather
than in the context of remedial discipline in which you
dissociate from functional life and relations. The principle
of relationship is the basis on which the whole notion of
asceticism is criticized in my Teaching, and the basis for
the more natural, functional, life-positive discipline that
is characteristic of our Way.

This is why we appear somewhat
different from communities of traditional religious and
spiritual practitioners. There are precedents in the
traditions for a Way of life similar to our own, in
traditions based on a different-although not necessarily
more illuminated-understanding than the ascetical notion.
There are traditions that regard a life-positive discipline
to be appropriate (the Tantric tradition, for instance) but
they typically generate that discipline on the basis of
conceptions of the cosmos that justify such functional
activity, rather than on the basis of an original, most
profound understanding and the force of self-transcendence.
In other words, the Tantric discipline can itself be
understood as an expression of the problematic orientation
of the ego. Our Way has characteristics that may be likened
to certain aspects of the Tantric tradition, but our Way is
not based on the conventional propositions of Tantrism. As I
have fully indicated, our Way is based on the disposition of
prior Enlightenment or freedom founded in

Without that true understanding, you
-cannot practice the Way. You can practice various
traditional forms of religious and spiritual discipline,
because many of the traditional forms of religious and
spiritual discipline are built upon problem-conceptions,
notions of something that is a problem to be undone. The way
conceived in terms that can be practiced without
understanding as an effort toward Enlightenment is the usual
formula for spiritual practice, but it is a degraded version
of the spiritual process in Truth.

There are countless numbers of
people in the world at the present time who presume
themselves to be religious and spiritual, but who are just
struggling with themselves on the basis of various
propositions and techniques. They are not practicing on the
basis of prior Illumination. Such people have not made the
Truth or Spiritual Reality the basis of religion and
spirituality in their own cases. Rather, their own selves,
their problems, their belief in various cultic propositions,
objects, and systems of activity have become their
occupation, instead of the life of Divine Communion.
Obviously, a basic aspect of my role is to criticize that
tendency in the traditions and to criticize that same
tendency in all of you who are moving toward the possibility
of a spiritual life in our Way.

But the Way itself is built on
Truth, not on the search for It. The first thing we
ourselves, realizing that we inherently stand prior to the
activity of self contraction, which we ourselves are doing
or creating. Realizing that, we do not have to devote our
lives to curing our disease or stopping that activity. The
Way is a matter of devotion to That which we Realize to be
always already the case, prior to our disease.

Thus, our Way is not based on any
proposition that God exists, should be believed in, should
be worshipped, and so forth. Our Way is based on
understanding, in which you discover God or Reality simply
and directly. Having discovered God, Realized God, become
intimate with God, then you can develop disciplines and the
total culture of a religious or spiritual Way of life. You
can talk about God in all kinds of ways that seem to make
sense to you to talk about God or Reality or Transcendental
Being and your descriptions will change over time as you
mature in spiritual terms.

I do not merely call you to believe
something. I call you to understand yourself and simply to
stand free, prior to everything that you are doing,
everything that you are adding to Reality, everything that
has become your suffering. ‘Therefore, understand first.
Re-awaken this disposition and this capacity first, and then
go on to develop the practice in the form of a Blessed or
Baptized life.