Understanding – Adi Da Samraj (Franklin Jones) First Talk, April 25, 1972

“The principle of (Understanding) in itself
is not unusual. It says here, “Understanding is not
unusual, it is simple and used by everyone every
day.” The basic principle of understanding that
becomes so profound, so subtle, is actually a very
simply matter that everyone uses all the time. It’s
simply that they use it in the midst of a life of
avoidance. But the principle, the activity, this
intelligence is peculiar to all of our activities
throughout the day”.
– Life of
Understanding – Adi Da Samraj


Jones (Adi Da)


of Ashram opening

April 25,

“I am here in order that seekers
may understand their ways. Understanding is always the
understanding of seeking and not the embrace of any kind of

“The way of understanding is founded in the radical truth
that is fundamental to existence at any moment, in any
condition And it is also the genuine basis for creative
life, prior to all the magical efforts toward healing,
evolution and the victorious appearance of “spiritual”

Knee of Listening

(from The
Method of the Siddhas
The Dawn Horse Press, 1973. Part One,


On April 25, 1972, the date of this
talk, Franklin invited devotees, disciples, students and
seekers to approach him for the first time at his
Ashram(1) in Los Angeles. A group of about 30
people assembled in a newly renovated storefront at 6913
Melrose Avenue, in a Hollywood business district. As they
arrived, they were ushered into a modestly sized hall,
passing through the small bookstore that faced the street.
There they sat quietly, waiting for the evening’s event to
begin. It was on this date that his public work truly began.
Before this time, prior to the creation of his Ashram, he
taught only a few intimates. But since that time he has been
involved in a progressive and open communication and
demonstration of the way of Truth, the way of the Siddhas or
“Completed Ones,” who come in the forms and activities of

Once seated, Avatar Adi Da began to
gaze silently around the room. He Radiated simplicity and
ease. As He continued to sit, the room became thick with the
feeling of Fullness characteristic of His physical

After a few minutes, He closed His
eyes and sat quite still. Some of the people in the room
also closed their eyes, while others continued gazing at
Avatar Adi Da. Everyone showed their respect by remaining
silent and attentive.

After about an hour, Avatar Adi Da
stretched His body from side to side, left to right,
signaling the end of the silence.

Then he spoke in an undertone barely
audible to anyone but Himself, “Who will cast the first

Then, addressing everyone in the
room in a clear voice, He asked, “Everyone has understood?”
As Avatar Adi Da spoke these words, the room was silent in
response. Then a man near the back of the room stood up and
declared that he had not understood.

FRANKLIN: Are there any questions?
the people who
were in attendance say the first statement of Adi Da was
“Who will cast the first stone

No one replied, so Franklin spoke

FRANKLIN: Everyone has

QUESTION: I haven’t understood.
Explain it to me.2

FRANKLIN: Very good. What haven’t
you understood?

QUESTION: Well, you said “Did
everybody understand?” and everyone seemed to understand but
me. Would you explain it to me?

FRANKLIN: Explain what?

QUESTION: Well, you could start with
the word “understanding.”

FRANKLIN: Yes. There is a
disturbance, dissatisfaction, some sensation that motivates
a man to go to a teacher, read a book about philosophy,
believe something, or do yoga.3

What we ordinarily think of as
spirituality or religion is a way to get free of that
sensation, that suffering that motivates us. So all paths,
yogic methods, forms of seeking, beliefs, religion, grow out
of this sensation, this subtle suffering. Ultimately, all
these paths are attempting to get free of that sensation.
That is the traditional goal. So all men are seeking,
whether or not they are very sophisticated about it, using
very specific methods, yoga, philosophy, religion,

When that whole process of seeking
begins to break down, the man no longer quite has the edge
of his search left. He begins to suspect himself. He begins
to doubt the whole process of his search. Then he is no
longer fascinated with his search, his method, his yoga, his
religion, his ordinary teacher. His attention begins to turn
to this sensation that motivates his entire

When a man begins to re cognizee,
consciously to know again that subtle motivation, this is
what I call “understanding.” When he begins to see again the
subtle forms of his own action, which are his suffering,
that recognition is understanding. When this becomes
absolute, perfect, when there is utterly, absolutely no
dilemma, no form in consciousness interpreting the nature of
existence to the individual, when there is no contraction,
no fundamental suffering, no thing prior to consciousness,
this is what I call “radical” understanding. It is only

The traditions call this enjoyment
the Self, the Heart,4 God Union,
Satori,5 Nirvana,6 Heaven. But it is
simply consciousness. There is no thing prior to
consciousness. We are not some piece of Divinity seated
inside the body, that somehow must get released from the
body and go back to its spiritual Home and Source. There is
no such entity. The Home and Source is also the very Nature
of the “entity.” There is consciousness, and the apparent
entity is within consciousness. So that when consciousness
begins to enjoy its own state or real nature, even in the
midst of conditions, even where there is life, that is true
understanding. When, no matter what event appears, there is
only the enjoyment of consciousness itself, not transformed
or modified by events, when no implication arises on the
basis of events to change the nature of consciousness, that
is “meditation.” When there is fundamental enjoyment of
consciousness, that is called “liberation.” All of that is
simply “understanding.”

There is a subtle contraction in the
process of man, and it constantly changes the quality of
consciousness. It creates the identification of
consciousness with the contracted sense. That form, that
body, that mentality. And in that act of identification, it
differentiates itself from other forms, other beings. Then
the rest of life is spent, through exploitation of the
movement of desire, to overcome that creation. Through the
movement that is desire we seek constantly to create a
connection, a flow of force between the contracted identity
and everything from which it has differentiated itself.
Yoga, religion, spirituality, philosophy, all our
strategies, even our simple psychological strategies, our
lifestyles, have this same form. They are all attempts to
release energy between this contracted, separated one and
all from which it is differentiated. Thus, all ordinary
activity is founded in this dilemma, this self created

Traditional spiritual life is a
search in this same form. There is dilemma, and there is the
spiritual method, which is an attempt to overcome this
dilemma. When the individual begins to see again the dilemma
that motivates his method, that seeing is understanding. As
long as he is simply seeking and has all kinds of
motivation, fascination with his search, this is not
understanding. This is dilemma itself. But where this
dilemma is understood, there is the re cognition of a
structure in consciousness, a separation. And when that
separation is observed more and more directly, the person
begins to see that what he is suffering is not something
happening to him, but it is his own action. It is as if he
is pinching himself without being aware of it. He is
creating a subtle pain, and, worse than the pain, a
continuous modification, which is “mind,” which
consciousness identifies as itself. The more he observes
this, the more his search is abandoned, spontaneously,
intelligently. He simply sees his motivation, his actual
suffering. He can only live that suffering. It does not
move, until conscious life becomes a crisis. Then he sees
the entire motivation of life is based on a subtle activity
in consciousness. That activity is avoidance, separation, a
contraction at the root, the origin, the “place” of

In the beginning of this crisis a
man only observes the contraction as a sensation, as a sense
of dilemma, as a search. But the more directly he observes
it, the more clearly he recognizes the action itself. At
first he sees the avoidance, the strategy, the life
technique. Then he begins to observe this activity in terms
of what it is excluding, what it prevents, what is always
being eliminated from consciousness and conscious life. That
which is always excluded is the condition of

Ordinarily, a man is unaware of
relationship, as relationship. He only lives the drama of
separation. But when he becomes directly aware of this
contraction, this separation, this subtle form, he observes
or enjoys relationship as that condition which is always
already the case. Relationship is always already the
condition of living consciousness. When this contraction is
observed perfectly, radically, there is only relationship,
and no obstruction. Then, spontaneously, it is also perfect
awareness. That perfect awareness is called the Heart, the
Real, what always already is the case.

The Heart is always active, always
accomplishing the thing that desire always seeks but never
finally realizes. The Heart15 always unqualified
relationship, always force, conscious force without
obstruction. But the life of desire is always already based
on separation. Separation has already occurred in the usual
man, so desire tries to heal the sense that arises as a
consequence of that separation. But there is no ultimate
success by the means of desire, even “spiritual” forms of
desire. There may be temporary releases, fascinations, but
desire never radically escapes its own dilemma. This is
because it does not deal with the dilemma. The search is
concerned only with desire and the objects of desire. But
beneath that is this subtle contraction.

Therefore, the Heart is always,
already the absolute continuum, the flow of power, without
obstructions. It is always already like desire fully
satisfied, because the flow is always already accomplished.
Always already accomplished, not the result of any motivated

The great Siddhas,7 men
of radical understanding, are those who live consciously as
the Heart. They function as the Heart for living beings. And
that function is simply relation ship, unobstructed flow.
The pressure of the presence of such a one stimulates and
intensifies the flow of force in living beings. All
obstructions tend to fall away in the presence of this
force. Where it moves there is either surrender or flight in
its path. The Siddhas communicate the living Force of
Reality. They live it to living beings. They simply live the
natural state of enjoyment with other beings. And those who
stay to live in friendship with the man of understanding
tend also to understand.

QUESTION: Franklin, I have to go,
but I have one more question. You said the Siddhas live as
the heart. What about the mind? Do they live as the mind

FRANKLIN: What is it?

QUESTION: Do they live as the mind
as well? It is connected with the heart.

FRANKLIN: What mind?

QUESTION: What mind? The mind that
they exist in. There is only one mind.

FRANKLIN: There is?

QUESTION: Of course their brains are
functioning too. Right?



FRANKLIN: What is the point you are
trying to make?

QUESTION Well, I asked you the
question about the mind.

FRANKLIN: Yes. What mind?

QUESTION: What mind?

FRANKLIN: The brain?

QUESTION: Yes, the brain.

FRANKLIN: Ah, well that is something
very specific. You are talking about the brain, or the “One

QUESTION: Well, there is only one
mind, of course.

FRANKLIN: You are talking about the
mind now, and not about the brain?

QUESTION: Well, I was asking you
what is the relationship between the two. Between the mind,
the brain and the heart.

FRANKLIN: You are talking about the
physical heart?


FRANKLIN: Well, which?

QUESTION: You can answer whichever
way you like.

FRANKLIN: I do not have need for the
answer. What specifically are you asking?

QUESTION: Well, actually you
answered me, because I wanted to see what you wanted to

FRANKLIN: No, that is not what you
wanted to see. Don’t play games. I am not here to entertain.
All these little dramas you are playing have no place. I
have no interest in them, and neither have you. I am not
here to “lay something on” to you. I am not concerned with
that. If you want to discuss something with me for a real
purpose, that is something else. But if you want to play at
polemics, and idle cleverness

QUESTION: That’s not what I

FRANKLIN: No, no. That is what you

QUESTION: Do you think that is what
I am trying to do?


QUESTION: Why do you think

FRANKLIN: What is all of that?
(pointing to his expression)

QUESTION: What is what?

FRANKLIN: What has all of that
(pointing to his expression) got to do with anything, hm?
You are very upset. What are you upset about?

QUESTION: I’m not upset at

FRANKLIN: Yes you are, my friend.
(to another) Does he look upset to you?

ANOTHER: Yes. I recognize that. (to
the questioner) You know what that is? It is fear stone cold

FRANKLIN: Something here is
upsetting you. I would like to talk about that. That would
be worth talking about.

QUESTION: I don’t feel

FRANKLIN: You don’t feel the least


FRANKLIN: Very good.

QUESTION: If what you say of me were
true, why would I have come here tonight?

FRANKLIN: I think you have good
reasons for being here, but I don’t think that is what we
are dealing with at the moment. Before we can deal with your
good reasons for being here, you must overcome the social
dilemma it represents to you. Yes? The whole spiritual life
or thinking associated with spiritual life which you bring
here is perhaps somewhat threatened. Well, that is fine. But
we have to get beyond simply being threatened by one
another. And before we can get beyond that, it must be
acknowledged. The obviousness of it must be acknowledged.
The obviousness of our strategy, our cleverness, our
inability to be direct, to love. We must acknowledge this
creation of artifices. All of that must be understood. If
you have not understood that, what is there to defend? I
could sit here and have a discussion with you about the
mind, the brain, the heart. But what does all of that have
to do with anything? Hm? We could talk about the shape of
clouds. But what is going on? What is this sensation, this
feeling that you have, that everyone has?

QUESTION: What sensation do you
speak of? I am not sure what you mean.

FRANKLIN: Exactly. What is that
sensation that you have at this moment? Your

QUESTION: I am sorry, I don’t
understand what you are talking about. You are saying
awareness is a sensation, right now?

FRANKLIN: What exactly is the nature
of your awareness at this moment?

QUESTION: I don’t know how to answer
that. But I know it exists, I am aware of it.

FRANKLIN: Of what?


My awareness.

FRANKLIN: You’re aware of your


And is it always truth, sublimity,
and beauty?

It just is, brother, it just



Then why are you so

QUESTION: You keep seeing that, so
there must be something.

FRANKLIN: What is this attitude that
you are using at this moment? I am not “concerned” with it,
you see. I don’t want to put you down for it. But I want to
get to it, because it is the primary quality in all your
comments to me. Hm? You are aware of it. How you use your
body, your eyebrows, the tone of voice, the way you are
expressing yourself.

QUESTION: What is wrong with

FRANKLIN: I am not saying there is
anything wrong with it.

QUESTION: Well then, why are you
making any mention of it?

FRANKLIN: Because you are using it
to communicate to me. It is your communication.

QUESTION: Well, so what?

FRANKLIN: What is this attitude?
What is that? That is an attitude, isn’t it?

QUESTION: Well, obviously it’s

FRANKLIN: What is the purpose of it?
What are you doing with it? What is its nature? You have
communicated in other ways, at other times. Sometimes you
laugh, sometimes you cry.


FRANKLIN: All right. You are not
laughing or crying now. You are doing this! What is it you
are doing?

QUESTION: I am in the process of
communicating with you.

FRANKLIN: Why in this particular

QUESTION: Because that is the form I
choose to use.

FRANKLIN: Yes. And it does not have
any resistance in it at all?

QUESTION: Well, it has a resistance.
Yes, it has. I feel that there is a lack of communication
going on.

FRANKLIN: OK. That is what I am
talking about.

QUESTION: When I’m communicating
with somebody or they are trying to communicate with me, if
I feel there is a lack, sure I feel a resistance.

FRANKLIN: Exactly. That is what I am

QUESTION: You feel it too,

FRANKLIN: Yes. And if there was
simple, direct communication between us, it would be
unnecessary for you to have that sensation and to
communicate it to me in the way you now feel you must. But
what is actually coming through is that fear, that
resistance, that upset about the nature of this
communication. And that is exactly what I have been talking
about tonight. It is exactly that contraction, that
resistance, that formation of awareness that is suffering.
Behind that are all the thoughts, illusions, memories, ex
periences, searches. But that contraction or resistance is
always first. That is always the subtle structure we are
living. Wherever we go, wherever we are, it is that subtle
sense, that subtle resistance, that subtle discomfort, that
subtle un pleasantness, failure of love, of energy, of
presence. And that is exactly the thing I am talking about.
And this present sensation of which you have become aware is
the quality by which it is always experienced. It may also
be very elaborate. It can take on all kinds of forms, but
this present sensation is the “contraction” I am talking
about. It is not unique to you. I just happen to feel it
functioning this way at this moment in you. But you are no
different from me or from anyone else. Everyone’s suffering
the same tendency and activity. And its results are always
the same. Everyone is suffering in exactly the same way.
There are only different life methods, styles, complex
experiences, whatever. But the essential structure is common
to us all.

There is first the periodic
awareness of that sensation, then the awareness of it as a
continuous experience, then the observation of its actual
structure, the knowing of it all as one’s own activity, a
deliberate, present activity that is our suffering, that is
our illusion. The final penetration of that present,
deliberate activity is what I have called under standing. It
is simply the penetration of that process which structures
all conscious events, all of your experience. And the
primary, even the most obvious effect, of this subtle
activity of suffering is the destruction of the
consciousness of relationship.

That is exactly the way it was
functioning between us in the last few minutes. There was
the sense of an obstruction in this relationship. But when
it is not there, when the contraction does not take place,
when it is not meditated upon, when it is no longer a matter
of concern, when there is simply this unobstructed path,
there is no dilemma. Then there is no one superior to the
other, no problem, no jealousy, no distinction. There is
only enjoyment. And where life is constant as that
enjoyment, there is the Infinity of Liberation, the Cosmic
Consciousness of Truth, the Siddhi8 of the Real.
But it is always simply that basic enjoyment, that
unobstructed, spontaneous, moment to moment existence as
relationship. It is what is called “love.” It is simply the
force of the Heart, the Real, which is unobstructed,
unqualified existence. When there is no resistance, no
contraction, no separation, there is just this ease of
pleasure in one another. And where there is that ease of
pleasure, there is no problem. Give it the names if you
like. It is simply our natural state.

What I call the Heart is
consciousness. It is called Atman, the very Self or Nature
of the apparent individual. It is not a separate organ or a
separate faculty. It is identical to what is called Brahman,
the formless, absolute, omnipresent Divine Reality. It is
very consciousness, absolute bliss, unqualified existence.
It is intuition of unspeakable God. Anything secondary that
we could call “mind,” body or brain, any function at all is
contained within the “Heart” like an event in a universe.
Within that universe is the appearance of living beings.
Naturally, if you speak of the physical body, or the psycho
physical entity, there is the physical heart, the physical
brain, and many other functions, physical ones and subtle
ones. But all of these are contained in that perfect
consciousness, that unobstructed nature, the Heart. From
this “point of view” there is no dilemma in the appearance
of things, no misunderstanding of it, no threat. All of this
is a form of enjoyment.

It is common for those who
constantly live in the obstructed state to possess an
elaborate, dramatic concept ualization of things. But that
conceptualization of things is not equivalent to things
themselves. It is simply a display of modifications of
energy, subtle internal energy, your own functioning mind.
It is only a structure, a figure, an imposition, a
distraction, and its root is this contraction of which I
speak. It is utterly beside the point whether my
conceptualization of things is bigger than yours, whether it
has all seven parts in it while yours has only four. It is
only 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 what 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 was suffering or
owning, had no tangible existence. There was not in fact any
“thing” that he was suffering or owning. He was simply
obsessed. His suffering and his “mind” were 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 was 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 sadhana,10
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

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

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 special 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 wn the
obstructions. The Heart is always already

The person in whom this whole
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 w, 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 remain.

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

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
Ashrams of various teachers, such as Ramana
Maharshi,11 or Sri Ramakrishna.12 It
is always the same thing. This Ashram is not going to be any

QUESTION: Would you please speak
about this contraction, and ho w 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.

QUESTION: Is the activity of the
mind and thought an obstruction?

FRANKLIN: What is your

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

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 relationship.

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 recognize 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, whatever 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 with 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 when 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 dilemma, 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 wasn’t the least interested in tolerating
moment to moment existence as that kind of suffering. Life
wasn’t worth the involvement if its summation had to be
death, zero. What difference does it make ho w turned on I
can get if I must fall out the bottom, arbitrarily.
Everything is wonderful today. But you wake up tomorro w 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

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
with that craziness, until you begin to get sick of it. Then
you are no longer talking about your ‘trip,” your yoga, how
groovy it is and how you’re going to get there, everything
is so soul beautiful, and all this crap. You will become
obsessed with 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 were al ways 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, somehow, this activity
of yours.

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 wed by a re action.

In The Knee of Listening I have
described this “event” in my own case. When there was this
simple, radical turnabout, there was nothing about it that
would have appeared remarkable to anyone who might have
observed me. I didn’t smile. I didn’t feel high. There was
no reaction to that event, because there wasn’t anything
left over of the thing that now was thro wn a way. There was
no thing to which I could react. There was no one to react,
to feel good about it, happy about it. There was 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 was no longer
this whole complex life in dilemma, but I didn’t really
function in any way 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, which 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 wn 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 was peculiarly free of
vision, movement, and all the blissful phenomena
characteristic of the activities of yoga shakti13 And when
such phenomena did happen to arise, they were of another
kind, or they were kno. wn 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

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 enjoyed 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
describing. 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 benefit.

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 Truth.

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 Satsang,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.

1. An Ashram is a place where a
Spiritual Master gathers the. community of his devotees and
disciples in order to live with them, instruct them, and
communicate the divine force of his Presence.

2. The questioner in this
case is a seeker, relatively unfamiliar with Franklin’s
teaching or the quality of his approach to individuals,
particularly to those who, while remaining enamored of
themselves, like Narcissus, pot on the masks of spiritual

3. Yoga is a general term for
the various ways of consciously functioning in union with
the Divine Reality. The term commonly refers to the Hindu
descriptions of these ways.

4 You will hear Franklin using this
term throughout these talks, and it should become
progressively clear what is meant by it. It is recommended
that you also read The Knee of Listening for a full
understanding of this key symbol of Franklin’s work. In
general, the term signifies the unqualified ground and power
of being and of all manifestation. The man of understanding
is conscious as and from this ‘ground,” this foundation
position and capacity. The Heart is perfectly thought free.
The man of understanding is mindless, not because he
suppresses thought, hut his understanding of all that arises
has become re cognition or knowing again of thought itself,
so that mind, or its principle, has fallen in the Heart.
Even so, he continues, paradoxically, to function as any
ordinary man.

5 Satori is the Japanese ‘Zen”
Buddhist term for the experience of enlighten ment or sudden
awakening to the Nature of self and world.

6 Nirvana is a classical Buddhist
term for the extinction or quenching of all qualities of
suffering, of ego, of birth and death. Entry into the
transcendent realm of unqualified Reality.

7 Siddha means a perfectly fulfilled
or accomplished one, a completed uric. It is used to refer
to the Great Souls or Master Teachers who live perfectly in
God while they arc also active in the paradoxical and
spontaneous functions of the Divine in the created

8. A siddhi is a form of
yogic accomplishment. an extraordinary or subtle functional
ability. The ‘Siddhi of the Real” is the Mahasiddhi, the
great, spontaneous Perfect Consciousness, Activity and
Presence of the Siddha, or one whose understanding is

9. A Patriarch of the Ch’an or Zen
Buddhist tradition, who brought the teaching to China from
India in the 6th century A.D.

10. Right 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, which
is generated where Truth is already the case, not where it
is sought.

11. Ramana Maharshi was a
spontaneously Self realized Sage of modern India. He
abandoned the gross physical body in 1950.

12 Sri Ramakrishna was a great
devotee of God who flourished in the mid 19th century and
passed on in 1886.

13 Yoga shakti is the power, energy
or living force that is awakened in the yogi spontaneously
or through the agency of the spiritual Master. This internal
energy produces a wide range of phenomena in the body. mind
and subtle faculties of the adept.

14. Satsang literally means true or
right relationship. It is commonly used to refer to the
practice of spending time in the company of holy or wise
persons. One can also enjoy Satsang with a holy place, a
venerated image, the burial shrine of a saint, or with the
Deity. Franklin uses the term in its fullest sense, to
signify the very relationship between a genuine Siddha and
his devotee. That relationship is seen to he an all
inclusive condition. effective at every level of life and

15. Guru is a term properly used to
refer to one who functions as a genuine spiritual Master.
The Siddha Guru is a perfect Master, a Siddha who functions
as Guru for others, who is himself the very Truth that is
awakened in the disciple. This Siddha Guru is what Franklin
generally means to indicate in his use of the simple term

The Method of the