The Dissolution of Vital Shock
Bubba Free John (Adi Da Samraj) Dissolution of Vital Shock Seminar, July 1975.
“The first stage of the listening process is self-observation which is served by the sadhana of study”
Observe Youself in Toto – Laughing Man Magazine, 1987
In the summer of 1975 Adi Da Samraj (Bubba Free John) gathered some of his devotees in an intensive four day program called “The Dissolution of Vital Shock,” designed to assess, refresh, and clarify the specific stages of student sadhana. Adi Da worked very closely these people, continually giving lessons and instructions in the paradoxical ways unique to his Teaching. The following is a portion of that seminar.
Self-Watching vs Self-Observation
The first form of Satsang is simply coming to the Man of Understanding, coming to the Guru and listening to him, being attentive to him. And that’s the first form of Satsang, these people on the student course are essentially listening to the word of the Guru, listening to the teaching. And depending on the intensity of their interest, they are more or less concentrated while listening in this way, and as the process of listening or their involvement with the teaching goes on they become more interested by a natural process of attention, their attention becomes more concentrated, more direct, more attached to the teaching itself and ultimately to the Guru so that Satsang takes on a more practical life form, a more intense form. So the beginnings of the process of understanding in every case is one of attention, listening, concentration and this listening becomes hearing, comprehension in various ways, self observation. So I mention here, this led to concentration and observation, so the acts of attention become natural and this becomes self observation and the self observation becomes insight, all these things follow on one another. – The Life of Understanding
BUBBA: Self-Observation1 is not accompanied by self-watching. In other words, you don’t have a decision or concept or liberating thing in your head by which you could at this moment keep yourself from eating too much. So the data that comes from self-watching is not there. It doesn’t mean there was no self-observation. Self-observation does not have any content that we may identify with it. It is simply availability to the conscious knowing, conscious insight, into the situation that ordinarily binds us. And once we are present in that way relative to some conditional form of the dilemma in us, it may very well fall away. And afterwards we neither have that particular compulsion or whatever, especially, nor do we have something in our heads that keeps us free of it. The whole condition is just absent. The karma is either undone or taken away for the time being, one or the other. It doesn’t necessarily mean that, uh, in fact something like real self-observation took place, either, in your case, in this particular case. It may very well have, if we talked about it in detail, we might discover something about that. It is simply that for real self-observation to have occurred in any instant, there need not necessarily be a whole set of concepts and other kinds of armor that you carry through time afterwards. There is just contact with that fundamental condition that preceded that whole dilemma of compulsions and so forth, that whole dimension. And so it falls away. It disappears. If you’re already happy under the conditions of some particular kind of life movement, and you don’t tend to become involved with that movement itself, you don’t tend to direct yourself through that form of life movement, toward some conceived happiness, some hoped, for happiness, some solution, some fulfillment of an ultimate kind and so forth, if you’re already happy, you are not motivated.
So it may very well be that relative to that sort of thing that obsessed you so constantly, in the midst of the real feeling of it, the real knowing of that whole demand in yourself, that whole drama you are involved with, you suddenly felt happy. You suddenly fell into that natural condition. And so the compulsion just passes. It is no longer attractive. It’s clear, however, that what we are talking about in this case is not the appearance of responsibility in your case. We’re talking about a kind of liberation, a freedom from some particular kind of state. And the process that we’re specifically talking about, that is understanding, always involves responsibility in consciousness. But it is not relative to things like habits and forms of behavior and such things. It is knowledge. It is real comprehension. It is a siddhi, a real power that you bring to life. And not in order to change its karmas, to transform your behavior and so forth, fundamentally it that’s, there’s no significance of that kind, but rather to enable you to exist happily, freely, in the Divine. And whenever that is the case, karmas fall away, karmas just move through by the truckload. And some of them are fulfilled, some pass, some are just viewed, life just happens, continues to make its appearance, it’s breathed, and there is no dilemma.
So is the process of understanding is all about happiness, not about heavy things like self-improvement. Self-improvement is so easy, anyway. You just want to prove yourself. It’s such a simple matter, of, fact thing. You can just set out and do it. Anybody can prove himself. And you don’t become happier by doing such a thing, as we all know. And so the process of understanding is not about that. It’s about happiness. But not about the happiness that comes from this happening to you and that makes you feel good, and that happening and that makes you feel good, and having lots of good-happening things that just happen to you and make you feel good for a long time. It’s about realizing the principle that is happiness. It’s about realizing that you’re happy, that you are only happy, that you are happiness, and that is your condition, and it is totally independent of any kind of karmic realization from the Divine Vision to the turd on the sidewalk. (Laughter)
And you are only happy. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s understanding. But how is all this initiated?
How does one realize that one is happy, only happy? That there is only happiness and that is it. That’s the condition. Then we’ve got to get down to the kind of conversation that you’ve all been having today. And that’s when you have to get down to the whole matter of student sadhana. Student sadhana is a very practical affair. It is a condition. It’s a condition that affects behavior and so forth. It does all these things for the sake of the crisis in which there is this kind of enjoyment I’m talking about. And so the affair of student sadhana is a very practical place. It is not, it does not involve a method that you take on because you don’t feel good and want to feel good. Doesn’t involve any method of any such kind, although you by tendency are always trying to do the things that will in fact make you understand and make you happy or make you realize the Divine and so forth.
So the whole affair of student sadhana is a way of frustrating that intention that you have. Now fundamentally a person comes into the Ashram because he has studied the Teaching to the point of real sympathy, real feeling for that. So he is not committed to his search as a deliberate kind of overwhelming intention. He knows something about that, so he agrees to do sadhana in this way. And so it’s the karma, the tendency in him to dramatize life as a reaction to the felt dilemma, to pursue the goal of release in various forms, it’s that tendency in put him that is frustrated and that he is in a position to observe really through all of this sadhana. If he still is very be realized in practical terms for them. They must each simply become involved in a practical orientation of life, in which there is an essential balance between the various levels of their ordinary existence. The vital type is oriented toward his bodily life, by tendency. As a result, the whole dimension of the life, force, including its emotional component and the dimension of the mind, the discursive and thinking mind, those two aspects of his ordinary humanity are subdued and perhaps even excluded at times and perhaps even generally.
Obviously then to be doing the sadhana of an ordinary pleasurable life, with a responsible he’s got to lure some more touch with the responsible/presence in those other two areas. And in the case of the peculiar person who’s oriented toward the life, force and toward an emotional sort of game, then the mental and bodily components have to be integrated into his life, and in the case of this solid who’s all mental, tends to exclude the life, force and emotions and his bodily existence, well obviously he’s got to realize an orientation that more naturally fulfills his human life in those other terms. Well what you wind up recommending though to a specific individual is another thing and that has to be seen and tried and experimented with and so forth.
BILLY: Bubba, along these same lines, in that talk you described this fixation of attention in those general areas that you just mentioned relative to the vital, peculiar, and solid. I was wondering if you could articulate a little bit about what that fixation is, speak of what the solid, you know, being fixated at the level of the mind. I can kind of see that but I don’t really see that clearly like in the intentionally involved with the whole programmatic way of life, the whole conventional way of seeking.
BUBBA: The intention must first be undone in some real way, and that comes first through confrontation with the Teaching. Then when he sees something about that and has fallen out of sympathy with the simply program, conventional in program, of his life, then he comes to the Guru and in the Gurus company is brought face to face with that argument continually and he takes on a practical order of life that is quite a different thing than his life of tendencies. It’s a different thing altogether. his life of tendencies is self, concerned, always, to feel good, to get liberated, to have experiences, to change his state through various means, and so forth. The by the Guru life he is asked to live/is completely different from that.
It is essentially undramatized, ordinary life, in which he is given no subjective techniques, in which the whole turning toward subjectivity is offended and argued against by the Guru constantly. And all of the life level things that he is asked to do are so normal, so ordinary, that they’re offensive. They’re all circles. Whereas his life is at least great big ellipses, they are eccentric relative to the natural or sattwic order of life. So simply by confining him to these little circular, sattwic patterns, he is offended, he is upset. And whatever his motion toward eccentricity appears, it breaks through that circle of mere conditions, and he sees it. That’s self-observation.
At random moments he sees it, and at random moments his eccentricity, the pressure of his eccentricity, smacks against his ordinary life of sadhana, and he sees it. Well, in the beginnings first of all, he just sees little things, and he sees “I do this now.” It’s not that he intentionally sat around to watch himself do that. He just simply notices it. It’s very ordinary. Even self-observation in its real form that I’m describing is still very ordinary. You see things. But it’s not part of this whole program. And these seeings occur in naked moments in which you’re not present to analyze, and so forth. But you still see the same thing. It’s just that its significance is of an entirely different order. The self presentation that is there always in the strategy of self-watching is relaxed. So in very homely ways he sees things. He sees he did this, he did that, lie sees all kinds of things. This random seeing becomes more and more summary. First he sees things about himself, he sees some things that are specific, repetitive. He must see the ritual of his life. And then we talk more specifically the map of about the map of this kind of seeing, but ultimately it becomes a summary insight based on a tacit observation of his life totally. A felt tacit observation, the significance of his life being this contraction, this avoidance of relationship. And when that is seen in the moment of self-observation, not the moment of self, watching, because then there is a self and all you do is feel this contraction. But when it’s seen, when it’s really observed, then you not only see the whole life contracting through all of its mechanisms, but you see what precedes it. You see contraction relative to the whole pattern of existence. You don’t just feel contracted. You see this contraction, you see this great space in which it’s occurring. You see it as an event. And so you realize what is prior to that event. In other words you become responsible for that when you know it as an event. And you can not do it. In consciousness, you live as what precedes that, and so through the Siddhi that is consciousness you may in every moment undo the limitation of your tendency. So each moment of enquiry there is the falling of consciousness into its prior condition, the reassertion of that prior condition, not feeling contracted and feeling your contraction, seeing your contraction and knowing that you’re contraction not any of that. Knowing this condition that precedes that activity. Each moment of enquiry is a return to that, that natural realization of consciousness in which there is no contraction meditated upon. Now at the student level of this process of understanding, it appears as the sense of relationship, without qualification. The student’s common life is a continual contraction in the form of his desiring, his thinking, his sense of himself, and so forth, endless subjectivity, curving away, turning away. So that the force of this observation that is fundamental to the student phase of sadhana in its maturity is one in which he no longer meditates upon all that continually and is committed to the image that all of that produces of the world and of himself. But the force of consciousness is moved into its natural relational state. Where there is relationship there is no contraction. Where there is relationship there is no reflection on desire or thought or self. These things are not noticed. Where there is only relationship, and that is the conscious condition enjoyed, there’ is only the feeling of happiness and radiance of natural enjoyment.
So enquiry is a way of moving continually into that position via the force of consciousness, the Siddhi that is consciousness. So that this whole affair of student sadhana is very specific also very simple and very natural. And whenever you are at a moment that seems more or less conclusive to you, you think you’ve seen something, understood something, whatever, what are you always dam g when that happens? You are meditating upon some sort of content. Basically you are meditating upon some thoughts you’ve had, cause that’s all that’s left over. And when meditating upon your thinking, you’re meditating on you And when you think and define yourself, you naturally start feeling desires of various kinds, cause these are how you escape that trap and expand again. So even these moments of accumulated data about yourself in which you somehow realize a position that seems to be it, perhaps. Even these must be seen. These then become a condition in which understanding must arise. You must see how there is only this contraction. There is only the avoidance of relationship. That’s all you’re doing. That’s all student sadhana is about, is seeing that. Not analyzing yourself to the point where you know that about yourself, but it’s seeing it totally, in consciousness, that all your life amounts to is this strategy of the avoidance of relationship. That’s all it is. Every moment of desiring is that, every moment of thinking is that, every moment of self-awareness is that. The entirety of your life is a dramatization of the avoidance of relationship. That’s what I mean by dramatization. All forms of dramatization are forms of the avoidance of relationship. The avoidance of relationship is fundamental dramatization. And it takes all kinds of particular forms in practice. But since this activity, this plot of Narcissus, is the case for all beings, well, what if the sadhana in which fixation in that sense of everything is undone. Well it’s not the sadhana, conventional sadhana, of meditating on your subjectivity in various ways to analyze it so that you can prove yourself on a life level or to redirect your attention through yogic and mystical methods into some subtle plane. It’s not any kind of concentration on yourself subjectively to get data about yourself, high or low, and on the basis of that to make a life improvement of some sort. Nor is it any kind of, in itself strategy of relationship itself, of improving your relational life, of being successful at being in relationship. So none of those conventional ways of perhaps responding to this basic idea that there is only the avoidance of relationship. None of those conventional ways are sadhana. None of those conventional ways amount to the understanding in which there is prior freedom and happiness. All there is is manipulation of all of that from this conventional point of view. So the specific form of this sadhana is one in which the individual is taken out of, taken by the Guru, out of his conventional position and placed into another position in which he doesn’t really have any wits. He doesn’t really have it together in sadhana. Sadhana is a condition that is always offending him, is always upsetting him, disorienting him. He’s always being disproved and so forth. And so the method of sadhana is the method of the Guru, not the method of the student. And the Guru places his students in a particular kind of condition relative to himself in which dramatization is frustrated, in which the avoidance of relationship, that karmic intention, is frustrated, can’t really fulfill itself. And every time it moves to fulfill itself, it is observed, but not observed on the basis of some method of self-observation the guy is given. Simply, naturally, harmlessly observed. In moments when he is simply functional, he is simply fulfilling these conditions as the form of his relationship to the Guru. And randomly in that practical affair he observes himself. And these observations become real insight. They are real insight when he doesn’t simply see these things themselves factually, but in which he comprehends them as a strategy. And ultimately as this one strategy, this contraction, the avoidance of relationship.
BONNIE: Bubba, let me ask you a question about the initial phase of the setting of personal conditions in addition to the basic money, food, sex, study and service conditions.
It seems that a lot of the, a lot of data is necessary, that is the tendency to accumulate a certain data about your own life, and what I’m not clear about and I’d like to hear you talk a little more about, whether there is any validity at all to data that might be gathered through self-watching or through the watching of others, perhaps, of your own tendencies. Or whether actually the content of any valid condition must be the result of that very simple at first self-observation.
BUBBA: Well, you see the conditions are a conventional aspect of this sadhana. There are just ordinary activities basically. They’re directed toward the, they are lived in relationship to the Guru, and that makes them effective in a certain unique way. But basically they are just conventional life. And self observation is not a process of one’s conventional life. Self observation is a specific process valued from the point of view of understanding. But you can certainly add conditions to your life, add conventional changes to your life, on the basis of the things that people have seen about you. Of course what somebody else has seen in you is not your self observation. It doesn’t have the force of understanding, but it has a conventional value. It can be of use in the scheme of sadhana. It’s just that self observation relates to this process of understanding. Self watching is not, self watching or just any kind of way of gathering data useful in conventional terms is useful enough at the conventional level of sadhana.
In fact you will watch yourself all the time. There are that specific things you may notice about yourself that are completely useful, that have nothing whatever to do with your illumined consciousness. Somebody notices that you always kick dogs as you walk down the street. They could tell you that and you could stop kicking dogs and that would be good and it would have the least, not the least thing, to do with understanding. And self watching itself has nothing whatever to do with understanding. Only self observation does. But self watching can produce conventional information and so forth that can have value at the conventional level of sadhana.
BONNIE : Is it specifically useful in terms of setting those personal conditions that will frustrate your dramatization?
BUBBA: You can make the whole complex of conditions in your case generally more appropriate. The self watching and the conditions themselves obviously are not understanding. But they can generally help establish a more appropriate order of sadhana.
BONNIE: One other question I had about something that relates to that was the, what I’ve noticed in study groups, and even in our study group today was that there has to be a certain cautioning about that whole affair, even of analyzing and assessing your own sadhana. Because what I noticed in myself was the situation of having to assess created that dullness that you described in this latest seminar.
BUBBA: Because of what you think assessment is.
BUBBA: And as soon as you distinguish what this, what this seminar period is all about from assessment, then you’ll feel much happier about it, be much looser about it, it will have something to do with you then.
SANIEL: Bubba, in the thing Billy read, talking about how the solid, peculiar and vital, I don’t remember the exact quote, but they must consciously balance their lives in terms of what they’ve seen. And you spoke about strategies relative to body, mind, and life force. We were talking in our group today and one of the things that came up was, well, like it seemed appropriate as solid people were talking, that there be even almost a discipline of breathing and coming into life. And we were talking with a person who is more or less peculiar, and it seemed that that person should not manipulate energies. And I was wondering if you could talk about those three forms of sadhana, sadhana for those forms of strategies in those terms.
BUBBA: Well, to talk about it in those kind of terms, we’d have to really be talking about something very specific, somebody very specific. You’re talking about recommending conditions for people.
BUBBA: And so this would always have to be something done face to face with somebody otherwise it’s not really worth talking about. I’ve already talked about these strategies of life.
to be continued……
1. Adi Da Samraj distinguishes self-observation from mere self-watching, or accumulation of data about the self. In “I” Is the Body of Life (p. 121), he says, “Self-observation is that insight whereby what you might otherwise watch, or notice in yourself, is undone. It cannot occur as a ‘method.’ True self-observation is not a matter of putting yourself forward in a witnessing point of view to see the things that are arising. Self-observation occurs when you are not present as a self, watching.”