Understanding part two


that we have a different traditional structure, different theatre.
It doesn’t make any difference what these minds contain. It is not
merely the saint who can understand. Every fool can understand. It
doesn’t make any difference ~vhat is inside. It all has to go.
Because it is this contraction, this obstruction, this
self-containment that every man is suffering.

When the obstruction is no longer the force that is patterning a
man’s state, then it becomes possible for him to enjoy the very state
of things, the real structure of things, directly, prior to
conceptualization and the ordinary drama of his life. From that point
of view, which is already free and true, perhaps something meaningful
can be said about the structure of things, but, from this very point
of view, nothing is gained or lost by the existence of the manifest
structure of worlds or the description of it. If the principle of
suffering is released, something can be said, but the speech is not

A person came to Bodhidharma9 and said something about his “mind”
that is similar to your remarks. He sat in the presence of
Bodhidharma, trying to attract his attention. He did this for a long
time, without success, so that, finally, he was moved to hack off his
arm, which he presented to Bodhidharma. You must have heard the
story. He held this arm up to Bodhidharma, who, at last, turned to
him. He was willing to have a brief discussion. But he wasn’t upset,
excited, or particularly interested in the bleeding and mortal
condition of this seeker. The person wanted to know something about
his mind. He wanted to be liberated from his perpetual disturbance of
mind. Bodhidharma said, “Show me your mind.” Show me this mind that
is upset, that you want to understand, that you claim to possess.
According to tradition, that was sufficient to enlighten the man. He
saw that what he was upset with, what he thought he was suffering or
o~vning, had no tangible existence. There was not in fact any “thing”
that he ~vas suffering or owning. He ~vas simply obsessed. His
suffering and his “mind” ~vere present self-creations. All
Bodhidharma did, or served to do, was to bring about this spontaneous
re-cognition of the nature of that which the man ~vas presenting all
the time as himself, as his state. So, there was this sudden

Traditions are filled with such meetings between questioners or
seekers and their teachers. It is always the same story. The guy has
some very elaborate search going on in him, some very elaborate
structure of mind that he always presents and that he wants to defend
or overcome. But, whatever his number or his game, the usual man
always communicates one thing to others. It is his own mind-form, his
own state. It is always this we present to one another and to life.
By the performance of his own state a man destines himself to certain
reactions of life, certain experiences. His state also becomes his
action and his destiny. True “spiritual life” is always that process
whereby the present and chronic modification of consciousness, this
compulsive state, this action that becomes dilemma, seeking and
suffering is undermined in understanding. True “religion” is the
crisis of consciousness in which unconsciousness is undermined. It is
the crisis of our ordinary, common state, where it is utterly turned
about, undermined. That is the essential event to which all
traditions try to bring men, regardless of the lore and technique
peculiar to the time and place~ It is always a crisis. It is not some
self-possessed artifice. It is not a defense of the person’s limited
condition. It is where all of this is utterly destroyed. The
Christian tradition talks about “spirit-ual death” as the basic
event. It is a sacrifice, a cross. In the East it is the crisis of
satori, or the difficult, long term of sadbana,’0 or self-purifying
action. But it is always the crisis, turnabout, obliteration of that
form in which the person is helplessly alive. And if that has not
taken place, there is no spirituality, but there is simply the same
thing that always was, the same obsession with forms, the same
suffering, this disability, dilemma, disappointment, or whatever
emotional quality is manifest in the individual case.

When there is no defense left, when the bottom falls out, when
there is nothing to stand on, that is “liberation.” As long as there
is something left to defend, something with which to resist, as long
as there is something still left to die, the same state persists, the
same suffering, the same search. When it is all “dead,” when the
greatly feared event has

t0Right or true action, action appropriate to real or spiritual
life. It commonly refers to spiritual practices directed toward the
goal of spiritual attainment. Franklin uses the term without the
implication of a goal. He intends it to mean appropriate action, or
aefion svhieh is generated where Truth is already the case, not where
it is sought.

already occurred, then there is no longer the thread of seeking or
the defense of its hidden dilemma.

The kind of resistance we discussed in relation to the questioner
who opened this discussion is exactly the thing that everyone brings
to the teacher. The drama between the disciple and the teacher is
always the hour-to-hour confrontation with that condition. It is not
special in anyone’s case. It is the very thing that creates the
spiritual drama. It is the very thing that is dealt with throughout
spiritual life, in always more subtle forms. There is no particular
enjoyment in it. There is no special honor in it or any spedal dues
that come across because you deal with this suffering and resistance.
The teacher must always deal with the state that people bring to him.
And that state is never radically free. The new disciple is never a
form of enjoyment. He is not blissful. He is not Truth. The teacher
must function with communicated obstructions consciously and
deliberately. He must not forget the suffering and dilemma of his
disciple. Therefore, he may not simply console and fascinate his
disciple with promises, words and smiling notions. He must constantly
deal with the obstruction in his disciple, until his disciple is no
longer suffering that. But in order for him to no longer be suffering
that, there must be a crisis, a difficult confrontation. And it is
always absolutely difficult. Even between the teacher and the
calmest, most apparently loving devotee there is that obstruction. It
is only on the surface, in the personal strategy, that the new
disciple appears to be calm and loving. But he is also bound up with
his suffering. Some appear to be very loving and capable of service.
Others appear very resistive and angry. There is no distinction. It
is just a difference of qualities, but essentially the same event is
going on. The same thing is brought to the teacher in every case. The
same thing has to be lived by the teacher in every case. Therefore,
from the human point of view, there is no great privilege or pleasure
in performing the teaching function for people. It is simply that the
Heart functions that way. Always, spontaneously, it moves into
relationship. It moves through the structures of consciousness. It
flows through. It breaks do~vn the obstructions. The Heart is always
already enjoyment.

The person in ~vhom this ~vhole strategy has broken down looks
like a pane of glass. There is no ‘peculiarity” about

him, no resistance. That whole structure of force in which he
lives is open. But when we meet the usual man, we immediately
experience the limitation to life that he will accept or demand in
our relationship to him. And this tends to stimulate, by reaction,
our own limitation. So everybody complains about how ordinary
experience with people is unsatisfying. But when that contraction
just opens a little, the force of delight and of love begins to
flo~v, and the obstructions begin to break down, until, finally, the
person is shattered. At last, the whole ordinary form of his
existence is absolutely destroyed. He no longer lives from the point
of view of this contraction and all of the assumptions about life
that it requires. His own consciousness falls out of the usual form,
and the point of view of consciousness in which he lives is that of
the Self, the Heart, the radical intuition of Reality or God. He no
longer contains the least trace of a separate self sense. It doesn’t
even tend to arise. And yet, the apparent functions of life

Those who live in genuine spiritual community have value for
others who come into contact with them. They will only allow people
to live as the Heart, to function in relationship with the Force of
the Heart. They will not indulge a person’s strategy. They will
provoke the crisis of his suffering.

(At this point the young man who had been questioning Franklin got
up to leave. He had obviously felt quite antagonistic toward
Franklin. It was not clear why he felt it was necessary to assume a
superior manner, but his contempt as well as his insecurity had been
made plain to all. After he left, many of those present expressed
their relief with laughter and criticism, but Franklin continued to
remind them that the drama they had just witnessed was a kind of
exaggerated version of the process that is enacted between the
teacher and every one of his disciples.)

FRANKLIN: It is always the same. Every one is like that. He wasn’t
extraordinary. He just played the obvious drama that he played. He
was good. I appreciated his questions. It was good that something
that dramatic or emotional could take place. You should read the
documents which record the history and teaching in the Asbrams of
various teachers, such

as Ramana Maharshi,11 or Sri Ramakrishna.’2 It is always the same
thing. This Ashram is not going to be any different.

QUESTION: Would you please speak about this contraction, and ho~v
the form of enquiry you describe in The Knee of Listening passes
beyond all the forms of separation?

FRANKLIN: A lot of words could be used. The traditions describe
different “knots” that are opened, and the goal of spiritual life is
often said to be the opening of these various knots. There is a knot
in the navel, a knot in the heart, and a knot in the head. There are
many knots, but these are perhaps the primary regions discussed in
the traditions. What they are really talking about are functional
forms of contraction in the organic and subtle processes of life. The
chakras or subtle centers through which the life-force moves are like
the lens of a camera. When they are contracted and closed, no force
flows. If there is a force trying to make them open, the resistance
of the contraction creates pain, heat, and all the various yogic
manifestations, many of which are described in The Knee of Listening.
As a living center of consciousness opens a little bit more, then the
mind begins to get a little “flowery.” So there are these little
visionary things, and perceptions and insights. When it is completely
open, there is just the intuitive force of consciousness and bliss.
Then the life-force moves on, until it hits the next obstruction. The
life-force is ultimately the force of the very Heart, the God-life,
the Power of Reality, moving through the various centers of life,
which are chronically obstructed or contracted. And the various
experiences associated with the release of these centers are called
the process of yoga or spiritual life. But what is ultimately the
case is not all of these experiences. They just take place because
there are obstructions. If there are no obstructions, there is only
absolute consciousness, no dilemma, nothing to be ac-complished.
There is no body in which to accomplish anything. Therefore, one in
whom understanding and enquiry are perfected passes from limited and
even extraordinary forms of knowledge and experience into the
intuitive and spontaneous life of Reality or God.

Ramana Maharshi xs’as a spontaneously Selfrealized Sage of modern
india. He ahandoned the gross plmyssc~l hody in i95 II.

12 Sri Ramakrishna was a great devotee of tit)(t who tiourished in
the midi ~)th century and pas~l on in 1886.

QUESTION: Is the activity of the mind and thought an

FRANKLIN: What isyour experience?

QUESTION: My experience is that in spite of what I will or wish, I
have lots of strange thoughts.

FRANKLIN: If you close the eyes meditatively, you turn yourself
mainly to concentration on mind-forms. But if your eyes are open,
there are people, functional demands and the whole cosmic event. And
while you are sitting there with your eyes open, you will become
aware that all of this thought is also going on. You will begin to
feel, almost see, how thought slides between you and all contact with
the moving world. Thought is an actual, solid obstruction. It is a
form of matter, a modification of energy. What we call our mind is
wave-lengths of force, functioning, taking on forms, through the
subtle processes of electrical interchange. So when you have a
thought, you have modified the energy flowing through the brain
regions. In other words, you have contracted it, and you are always
concentrating on that contraction. If you pinch your arm, attention
centers at the point of pain. If you have a thought, attention
centers at the point of thought. Whenever there is distraction by a
particular entity, form, function, or whatever, there is loss of
direct awareness, of relationship. When there is concentra-tion,
everything else is excluded. The “ego” is just another form of
concentration, of distraction. In the case of the ego, the
distraction is not a particular thought, but the separate self sense
that all contraction generates. The ego is an activity, not an
entity. The ego is the activity of avoidance, the avoidance of

Therefore, any thought, any function, anything that creates form,
that appears as form, that seems form, is produced by concentration
or contraction. Thus, apart from understanding, all processes, even
life itself, tend to become an obstruction. The root of it all is
called the “ego,” but it is actually contraction, in countless forms,
endured without consciousness. The absence of consciousness is the
key, not the acts of concentration themselves (which are only more or
less functional). Apart from consciousness, functional contraction
tends to become the assumed condition of life. Unconscious
contraction creates separation, which manifests as identification, or
the sense of separate self.

The root of spirituality is not some activity like desire that
seeks to get you to the super Object. Genuine spirituality is
understanding of the whole process of motivation. It is to re-cognize
the root of it, this contraction, this separation. When you no longer
have any more options, when you have worn yourself out doing your
number, and you have tried all the trips and methods, paths and
lifestyles, strategies and places to go, all the forms of
concentration, ~vhatever they are, then all of that begins to break
down. You discover that you just don’t have the jazz left to really
carry it on any more. You find yourself more depressed, just a little
bit too much depressed to meditate or to hunt for sex. You just don’t
have the jazz, the necessary fire of motivation. Then upsetness
begins to overwhelm you. The crisis begins to come on. You don’t
really have a path anymore. You may talk a lot about it, feel a lot
about it. It remains a part of your mind, but you don’t really have a
path any longer. That is really the most hopeful sign. The guy is
beginning to rot! When fruit begins to rot, then it falls ~vith seed
into the earth. But as long as a man is very righteous, as long as he
has got his trip, lie is not ripe. It is only ~vhen the trip begins
to kick him in the face that he begins to soften up, bruise a little
bit, feel his fear, his suffering, his (Iilernma, this constant upset
of all our mortality.

We are all going to die. We are all going to lose this awareness,
this enjoyment. I can’t endure that dilemma from day to day. From the
moment I was born, that upset me. I xvasn’t the least interested in
tolerating moment to moment existence as that kind of suffering. Life
~vasn’t worth the involvement if its summation had to be death, zero.
What difference does it make ho~v turned on I can get if I must fall
out the bottom, arbitrarily. Everything is wonderful today. But you
wake up tomorro~v and the world of lovely friends is delivered to you
dead, the insane parcels of everything disappearing. So all
righteousness, all ordinary spirituality or the search for
consolation is nonsense. It is a refusal. It is unreal.

The usual perception is that of the agonizing fact of
identification, the act that is ego, this refusal of one another,
this lovelessness, and this living craziness. And all of your
ordinary processes are bound up ~vith that craziness, until you begin
to get sick of it. Then you are no longer talking

about your ‘trip,” your yoga, ho~v groovy it is and how you’re
going to get there, everything is so soul-beautiful, and all this
crap. You ~vilI become obsessed ~vith your darkness, your heaviness.
You will try to feel good, but you know you feel lousy. You really
feel upset. It is really bad, it is really an annoyance. You are only
upset, so what difference does the search make? If you go through
that long enough, you begin really to get upset, and your meditation
becomes concentration on your upset. Whereas before you ~vere al~vays
doing your number to avoid that upset, now you can’t do anything but
be upset. And while you are meditating on your upsetness, you happen
to get involved here, in this Ashram, and you get even more and more
upset all the time. You come to me, and I make you more upset. You
think you are supposed to be having a very groovy spiritual
experience here, becoming more and more turned on. But when you come
around, people yell at you. They call your attention to your crazy
number. You are trying to do your best, but everybody is hitting you
over the head. All such experience is very aggravating, but it begins
to reinforce the real meditation that has now started to go on in
you. It is this crisis, this falling apart, this rot. And it will
persist, until you begin to observe, someho~v, this activity of

When you begin to see what you are doing, when you begin to
re-cognize it, you will see it first of all in very direct, human
terms. You will see it in the simple, human, practical things that
you do. Later, you will begin to see it in subtler ways. You will
observe the whole quality of your mind, your ordinary activity, your
game, the drama, the event that is always going on, until you begin
to see it most precisely and in a ‘cry subtle way. When you see it
absolutely, that is radical understanding. When you see the thing
itself, the simple thing, that is the end of it. You fall apart. You
scream, or you can t say anything, but it just ends. All of a sudden
the whole process is not going on anymore. And this apparent event,
unlike all other apparent forms of action in the manifest worlds, is
not follo~ved by a re-action.

In The Knee of Listening I have described this “event” in my own
case. When there ~vas this simple, radical turnabout, there was
nothing about it that would have appeared remarkable to anyone ~vho
might have observed me. I didn’t smile. I didn’t feel high. There
~vas no reaction to that event,

because there ~vasn’t anything left over of the thing that now was
thro~vn a~vay. There was no thing to which I could react. There was
no one to react, to feel good about it, happy about

it. There ~vas no peculiar emotion to the event itself. The Heart
was all. Its quality became more and more apparent. There was a
preliminary period of that fundamental enjoyment which lasted for
perhaps several months. During that time there ~vas no longer this
~vhole complex life in dilemma, but I didn’t really function in any
~vay different than before. I didn’t experience any comparative
impression about the event. I didn’t really “see” or interpret it
clearly and fully for a good period of time, even though I
consciously enjoyed a state that was untouched, unqualified by any
event or circumstance, xvhich would seem remarkable in itself. But I
hadn’t begun to function as it in relation to manifest life. Only
when I did so, and then only gradually, was I able to estimate and
know my o~vn event. It was as if I had walked through myself. Such a
state is perfectly spontaneous. It has no way of watching itself. It
has no way to internalize or structure itself. It is Divine madness.
The Self, the Heart is perfect madness. There is not a jot of form
within it. There is no thing. No thing has happened. There is not a
single movement in consciousness. And that is its blissfulness. It
was not the fact that certain functions of internal life had been
stimulated. It ~vas peculiarly free of vision, movement, and all the
blissful phenomena characteristic of the activities of yoga~shak
tiit3 And when such phenomena did happen to arise, they were of
another kind, or they were kno.~vn from a new point of view. Their
qualities had become cosmic and universal rather than yogic or
personal in nature. Until there is only God, the living One.

The mind acts as an obstruction. When the process of understanding
begins in you, you will enquire of yourself as I have described in
The Knee of Listening. You will enquire of the mind, you will enquire
in this moment of thinking, and you will understand it. When
consciousness moves into relationship, the mind falls away. The mind
is replaced by a form of intensity. The more that simple intensity is

13 Yoga-shakti is the power, energy or living force that is
awakened in the yozi spontaneously or through the agency of the
spirituat Master. This internal energy produces a ss’idc range of
phenomena in the hody. mind and suhtle tacuities of the adept.

as existence, the less obtrusive the mind becomes. Even though it
continues to arise, it becomes less and less obtrusive. You notice it
less. Now you think you are the mind. You are thinking, thinking. But
it is actually something that is arising in consciousness. It is only
a modification of your own nature. The man of understanding simply
does not notice the mind in the usual way. It is not that he has
quieted his mind. He is not his mind. There is no one there to be the
mind. The “mind” is simply one of the functions that spontaneously
arise. But if you identify with it, then you have already separated
yourself. Only when that whole structure of the separate self is
undermined by radical perception of its root does thought resume its
natural state.

Ramana Maharshi advised seekers to find out who it is that asks
the question, thinks the thought, whatever. The “who” is not an
entity. When Maharshi spoke, he used the symbology and language of
Advaita Vedanta, the classic monistic or “only One Reality” school of
Hindu philosophy. The imagery of this way of describing the process
of Truth deals in statics, things in space. So there is the ego, the
objectified, solidified self. But I speak more in terms of process or
movement. I speak in terms of concepts of experience with which the
modern mind is more familiar and which is more appropriate in this
time and place. I do not speak of “the ego” as an object within a
conceptual universe of objects, because we think in terms of process,
energy. Therefore, the concept of the static ego is not terribly
useful. It doesn’t communicate our actual experience. To say seek the
“I,” find out who the “I” is, is not terribly meaningful, because we
don’t approach the Conscious Nature from the mental structure assumed
by that question. But we all are dealing with activity, with process,
movement. Therefore, what is called “the ego” in the traditions is
more appropri-ately and conclusively re-cognized by us to be an
activity. And understanding is that re-cognition, that direct seeing
of the fundamental and always present activity that is our suffering,
ignorance, distraction, motivation and dilemma. When this activity is
thus known again, there is spontaneous and unqualified enjoyment of
what it excludes, that which is always already the case, always
already there.

The process I describe as understanding is ultimately the same
that Maharshi was describng. The same state or

enjoyment is being communicated and served. It is the same Force
of Truth. It is all absolutely the same. The thing is that, since we
are all presently existing, we cannot simply and naively embrace the
fixtures that we have inherited. There must be conscious re-cognition
of our present condition. Therefore, the old concepts and methods are
simply not useful, even though they may be pleasant and consoling.
There must be an absolute penetration of the form of life. Thus, it
must be approached within the living, present structure in which it
is suffered and entertained.

QUESTION: On this basis, how does formal meditation stand? You
don’t seem to think that formal meditation has much great

FRANKLIN: If you understand what you call your formal meditation,
that understanding is meditation. The understanding of your activity
is meditation. If you have an inclination to do some particular kind
of sitting, concentrating, yoga method, whatever, all of that is an
activity that you are already tending to do. The point is not whether
to do that or not. The point is the understanding of that whole
ordinary motivation, the process in this moment that is producing
this particular tendency that is “formal meditation.” Intelligence is
the fundamental meditation. Consciousness is itself meditation. The
usual man is always already seeking, so it is not a matter of doing
or not doing some particular kind of motivated search. We are always
already seeking, whether at this moment we are doing it in the form
of a yogic technique, or the next moment we are doing it in the form
of a sly glance at somebody as we pass them in the street. We are
always already doing it, so it is not the point whether we should do
a particular form of it or not. There is simply and always the
process of our own action. When there is the engagement of action by
real, unmotivated intelligence, understanding begins to develop as a
spontaneous, real process in consciousness. As this process of
intelligence matures, it tends to appear to become a little more
formal, so that perhaps a man actually sits down, actually seems to
meditate for a half hour, an hour, or even longer periods. He may
appear to everyone else as if he is doing what they recognize to be
formal or, more properly, motivated meditation. But that is not in
fact what he is

doing. He is living consciousness. It is just that, from a
practical point of view, if the body is relaxed, sitting in a natural
pose in which its fluids and energies can move freely, such is an
appropriate manner in which to enjoy the critical activity of real
intelligence. Even so, the same intelligence can be active under any
conditions, formal or random and circumstantial. There is simply the
endless return to this re-cognition of our own activity. The
gathering of our Ashram, our conversation together, our sitting
together, the reading or study we do, our life with one another,
everything we are doing constantly reawakens this re-cognition in
some form or other, through crises, endurance of the resistance of
our suffering, whatever. As we pass through ordinary life in this
way, and we see this same quality, always this same disturbance, that
seeing, that understanding, which is to be no longer trapped in the
unconscious process of action, is meditation. And such meditation is
the necessary foundation of all spiritual activity, the life of

The form that arises in consciousness at any moment is the
avoidance of relationship. It is the obstruction. The whole quality
that arises in consciousness, which appears as forms of body sense,
awareness of life, thought, the whole spontaneous event of waking,
dreaming and deep sleep is, in itself, the avoidance of relationship
in the usual man. Whatever arises is a manifestation of this same
process. Once you begin to re-cognize it, once you catch the little
pieces that are prominent, then you begin to see yourself fully.
Understanding begins in that way, in very practical observa-tion, in
the real observation of something that is obviously and practically a
hindrance, an avoidance of the condition of relationship. When real
observation of that kind has begun in you, this intelligence that is
understanding has a practical basis. To that degree, you are able to
respond with the intelligence of understanding to the events that
arise for you. The more there is of this re-cognition, of this
practical re-cognition, the more understanding has become your
intelligence. At the point when you really begin to see the
all-embracing technique and strategy of life, when you really begin
to see the structure of your suffering, at that point the form of
enquiry I have recommended in The Knee of Listening becomes a natural
extension of consciousness. And it may appear to be used in a very
formal way, but its use is

rooted in understanding itself. Genuine enquiry in the form
“Avoiding relationship?” is utterly dependent on prior understanding.
Without understanding, enquiry is just like anything else. It is just
a question in the head. It is just another preference. And
understanding itself depends on Sat sang,14 the company and
conditions generated by the Siddha-Guru,15 one who lives Truth in the

People do in fact tend to use the enquiry as a “method.” They may
read about it, or they may even have begun to engage themselves in
the preliminary stages of life in the Ashram, and they begin to
“meditate” by using this form of enquiry or some other form of
looking at themselves. But in such cases, enquiry is always used in
the spirit of method and seeking. Everything tends to become the
search, until understanding or real intelligence is alive. But even
though such people are going on with all of that, still doing their
number, if they are involved in the conditions of this work,
everything will eventually break down. If only a person has the
endurance for it, or the need for it, the looseness for it, or only
the inability to go out and play his game again, whatever it is. Some
such inner quality must keep a man or woman in place, so this work
can take hold in them. And the highest or most potent inner quality
is faith, devotion and surrender to Guru.

‘4satsaog literally means ~ue or right relationship. it is
commonly used to refer to the practice of spending time in the
company of holy or sssse persons. One can also enjoy Satsang with a
holy place, a venerated soiagc the burial shrine of a saint, or
ss’ith the L)eity. Franklin uses the term in its tuilest sense, to
signify the very relationship hetsvcen a genuine Siddlia and his
devotee. That relationship is seen to he an all-inclusive condition.
etfeLtive at every level of life anti consciousness.

Guru is a term properly used to refer to one who tunctions as a
~enuine spiritual Niaster. The Siddha-Guro is a perfect Master, a
Siddha svho functions as Gone for others, who is himself the very
Truth that is awakened in the disciple. This Siddlia-Goro is svhat
Franklin generaliy means to indicate in his use of the simple term