“What I Do Is Not the Way That I Am, but the Way That I Teach”
One day in 1975, at the Mountain Of Attention, James Steinberg, the devotee responsible for relations with other Ashrams and Gurus, brought to Avatar Adi Da a significant letter. It was from Swami Chinmayananda, an Indian Yogi then visiting San Francisco. Swami Chinmayananda was a well-known and respected figure in Spiritual circles–he was a commentator on Vedanta and had written many books. In his letter, the swami spoke of his concern at the Divine Avatar’s manner of Teaching–a participatory approach to Spiritual Instruction that was entirely foreign to his own orthodox views.
As Avatar Adi Da read the letter, James could feel that He was fully receiving this traditional swami’s expression of perplexity. The next morning, Avatar Adi Da Wrote an Essay clarifying the nature of His Teaching-Work–an Essay which was a response to Swami Chinmayananda and also a communication to everyone.
“What I Do is not the way that I Am, but the way that I Teach.
What I Speak is not a reflection of Me, but of you.
People do well to be offended or even outraged by My actions and behavior. This is My purpose. But their reaction must turn upon themselves, for I have not Shown them Myself by all of this. All that I Do and Speak only reveals people to themselves.
I have become willing to Teach in this uncommon manner because I have known My friends–and they are what I can seem to be. By retaining all qualities in their company, I gradually wean them of all reactions, all sympathies, all alternatives, fixed assumptions, false teachings, dualities, searches, and dilemma. This is My Way of Working for a time. . . .
Freedom is the only Purity. There is no Teaching but Consciousness Itself. My Appearance here is not other than the possibilities of mankind.”
–Avatar Adi Da Samraj 
THE WAY THAT I TEACH The Grace of Suffering
DEVOTEE: I have a question that is not related specifically to the Way of Divine Ignorance but to losing the thread of practice. Recently I became very sick, probably more sick than I have been in years. And I found that I could not maintain any connection to the disciplines. I felt it was impossible for me to do this practice. Under ordinary circumstances when problems arise, I can observe them and understand that they are my own activity. But when I was so ill and identifying with the body, I found that I just was not able to maintain the practice under those conditions. Would you be willing to say something about this?
ADI DA SAMRAJ: How terrifying to be in such a position! “I certainly hope you learned from this observation and will do better next time.” (Laughter) An individual is always seeing that he cannot fulfill the discipline. You are continually being shown the failure of your life, the conventional strategy of your life, the false commitment of your life. That inspection is what this practice is all about. It is not about winning! It is about Truth, freedom in God! There are no winners in God, none. Thus, the demonstration of your tendencies is the principal content of your spiritual life. You did see this, didn’t you?
DEVOTEE: Very clearly.
ADI DA SAMRAJ: Right. But you also to a degree mature in the practice of this Way. You never become the absolute hero in the face of God, but you do mature in terms of the ordinary content of your life. The crudity of your turning away begins to break up and you become a little more sophisticated. Still you are constantly shown, particularly as your practice begins, as in your case, that the first levels of false commitment are generally very gross. You have only to get sick and suddenly you abandon God! This is a useful lesson. The body becomes ill and you do not want to fulfill the discipline. You find yourself possessed by another interest, that is, the body in itself becomes the principle by which you define yourself. At another stage when you can pass through such a physical episode relative to the body or your life circumstances without being so heavily perturbed, you will begin to see that you define yourself on some more subtle level, in the mind or in the psyche.
The practice in the Way of Divine Ignorance is a continuous revelation-through conscious participation in the process of inspection-of identification with phenomena, with limitation, with subjective destiny. Such a revelation is useful for someone whose intelligence is available, in the present, for inspection. You are less distracted then by the parts of your bodily life, and thus when you see the implications of it you are liberated to a degree. The revelation chastens you.
Nevertheless, you must also yield your victory. Spiritual life for most people is a kind of effort at the end of which they are supposed to be the hero, the winner, the victor. Such a view is an illusion. The fulfillment of the disciplines is coincident with fulfillment of the Law, which is sacrifice or Love. So even to be so thoroughly ill that you cannot turn to me, through any conventional device at any rate, can itself be an instance of this sacrifice. Usually, when you are feeling relatively good, you can walk about briskly and perform actions and think of the Spiritual Master and study the Teaching. But when you are overwhelmed by some circumstance such as pain, to the point that you do not have the usual faculties and flourishes by which to represent yourself, then you have nothing to do but fall. And there is something to be known in that event.
God is not what you think God to be. God is realized only in the instant of sacrifice, not in the instant of congratulations or of some conventional acknowledgment or success. There is only God. How can there be God-enjoyment without loss of face? Without sacrifice itself? Without being undone in God?
And how do you begin to realize such enjoyment? You begin to realize such enjoyment by suffering. No one begins the practice of spiritual life until he or she has suffered and has begun to observe and know that fundamentally-whether the circumstances are pretty good or not so good-life, in itself or for its own sake, is suffering. Our merely born destiny is suffering. The experience of life becomes, over time, a complication, a depression, and communicates a fundamental sense that is suffering. You get to know this only by suffering, by living an ordinary manifest life and doing what you feel like doing, doing what everybody does, doing what is culturally impressed upon you, doing what circumstances require you to do by reaction, trying to make this a sort of heaven world or Utopia, trying to make human life a perfect vessel, trying to make your own life work out terrifically! By living a usual life you will come to know suffering.
Thus, suffering is the first form of Grace. It is only when you begin to comprehend your life as suffering, as limitation, as dis-ease in some very fundamental way that you will practice real or spiritual life in its true form. Anybody can want to be consoled, anybody can feel that life could be better or that life is not really so terribly good right now. But spiritual practice rests upon the critical comprehension of the usual life itself as bondage. When this recognition appears, it is not necessarily accompanied by dismal neurotic side effects, because it can appear in the midst of a life that is getting along relatively well. In fact, unless there is a kind of ordinariness to a life, there is not likely to be very much intelligence. People whose difficulties are profound, for whom nothing goes right, are generally those who are the least available to the grace of suffering. Thus, most commonly this critical insight or sense of life as suffering occurs in the midst of a life that is getting along relatively well. But it can occur in anyone, certainly-in the midst of a life that is getting along fantastically well, from the conventional point of view, and also in the midst of a life that is really, from the conventional point of view, not getting along well at all!
Prior to the acknowledgment of dis-ease you think of the world as a something. You objectify it as a place, a finite circumstance, a fixed material event, just as you objectify yourself. You imagine that the world is a massive, solid, physical process and that your own functions, even your thinking, are a dead end of chemicals. You go on living that solid, muscular life until you begin to suffer. Then you cannot be blithe and naive any longer.
With this recognition of your own suffering comes a tacit awareness that the world is not merely physical in nature, but psycho-physical. All the spiritual and religious traditions of the world are essentially based upon the acknowledgment that the world is a psycho-physical process, not a physical one. The world itself, not you only, not man only, but the world, this stuff, this universe, is a psycho-physical process whose essential foundation is, therefore, Consciousness. All the imagery and language about God that develops within any religious tradition appears because of this original or primal supposition.
You become more and more sensitive to the psycho-physical nature of the universe the more you are released into a fuller sense of your own existence. When you cease simply to move about mechanically, to do what you do, and to exploit yourself in purely vital terms, but when you have begun to yield through failure, through suffering, through insight, then the world begins to seem very different to you. The more psychic you become, the more conscious you become, and the more obvious it is that the world is also psychic in its nature. Then you begin to move into a psychic and feeling relationship to the world, not just a physical one. The dimension of consciousness in you ceases to be stopped and prevented. In the case we are discussing, the psychic, conscious dimension in the one who asked the question has ceased to be stopped and prevented by the conventions of life. Suffering has released him into his own depth. The profundity of this awareness varies from person to person, but the possibility of true practice exists only in that instant.
When the world ceases to appear solid and when you are no longer obsessed, you may still be moving with your life, but you are no longer obsessed with it as something ideal and perfect. The whole form of existence has become loose. Its definitions are no longer clear. All kinds of experiences may begin to occur in a person then, all of which tend to make him more in awe, make him feel more mystery, even drive him a little batty. The world becomes like dreams-and in fact it is dreams. We are so used to our conventional objectification of things that we forget we do not live within a defined world. Everybody has seen photographs of the earth. The usual man thinks, “Well, you know, it is a something then!” But the world is a realm such as the one into which you enter in dreams.
Where is that place in dreams? What is its size? The world is exactly of that kind. The difference is that you are associated with it in such a way that it seems much more formidable. You see the subtle and dream worlds briefly and confusedly, because basically you rest in this one. But when you begin to suffer life, you see that this waking world corresponds exactly to your requirements. Things happen to you, some so-called good and some so-called bad, exactly in accord with your tendencies. Things in this world are always testing you and not fulfilling you. When you begin to see the world as a realm rather than as a place or fixed something to which you are attached, then it becomes much more amusing.
What does the notion of saving the world mean? What is the world? That notion is just as absurd as saying that you are going to go back into your dream world tonight and save it! Because we have a fixed idea of the earth-it has a certain population and so on-we can imagine everybody believing and doing the same thing, belonging to the same organization, and all that nonsense. It is not necessary to save the world. Such a notion is completely absurd. There are infinite numbers of beings, infinite numbers of possibilities and changes, and all of them are an illusion. When you wake up you have no concern for the dream world. Having awakened, you have no inclination to save anybody that you met in dreams, or to be saved yourself! The gorilla can chase you all night, but when you wake up in the morning, there is no gorilla, no threat. Then who cares?
Just so, the possibility of spiritual practice, and also growth in more or less conventional terms, begins when suffering moves you to acknowledge your own psycho-physical nature and the psycho-physical nature of the manifest worlds. Then everything in life begins to break up and loosen. A new kind of life can begin, perhaps with all kinds of episodes and adventures and even self-exploitation. But contained within the seed of that change is the possibility for God Realization. Contained within that acknowledgment of suffering is the possibility of knowing the Spiritual Master. And when the Spiritual Master is met, then your self-possessed adventure is interrupted.
When you first begin to know that you are suffering, you sense that suffering is what happens to you, as when you became sick. You reason that the suffering is occurring because of what happened to you when you were a child, or because of some experience you are having today-perhaps you are ill or you just lost a million dollars. Or you think you are suffering because of what is going to happen to you-you are going to die, you are going to lose a loved one, you are going to fail. When the individual first begins to conceive of his or her life as suffering, as something that is always producing limitation, he begins an adventure of experiencing, indefinite in length (it can take lifetimes), in which appear many emotional, mental, and psychic phenomena and the exploitation of experience and manipulation of what can happen. For the usual man spiritual practice is egoic manipulation of what can happen, what has happened, what is happening. Each individual then develops an odd life of his own through this adventure-the worldly man by exploiting life, and the spiritual seeker by manipulating his bodily mechanism in more sophisticated ways-until that same sensitivity by which the life of suffering was realized and acknowledged brings him into the Company of the Spiritual Master, and he becomes sensitive to the Spiritual Masters consciousness and influence.
By contrast, the Spiritual Master constantly indicates that suffering is not anything that is happening or has happened or will happen to you. Changes of state are not, fundamentally, to be equated with this suffering to which you have become sensitive. Your suffering is your own action. Even what you call yourself is a form of action. And so the Spiritual Master draws the individual into more and more intimate company, into the mutually sacrificial love relationship that spiritual practice involves. He constantly serves this realization in the individual, serves this sensitivity to suffering and the inspection of its nature, serves more and more the intuition of God, the Infinite Reality. Thus, the individual begins to take on a pattern of responsibility, whereas before, founded in his sense of suffering, he wandered. In the Company of the Spiritual Master his practice becomes specific and a matter of responsibility, not the accumulation of experience nor the exploitation of mechanisms of experience. In the Company of the Spiritual Master he begins to love. He becomes a sacrifice to the living God.
Suffering is your action. Therefore, it is the action of contraction, of self-definition, of obsession with what arises in itself, independent of its ground or substance or its true Condition. The action that is suffering produces the usual life as karma, illusion, negative destiny, unconsciousness. Thus, the Way of Divine Communion involves a life of counter-action, of other action, as a specific responsibility. Whatever is not used becomes obsolete. In the Way of Divine Communion the person is not continually involved in the affair of his inner life, his content, his interests, his tendencies, his suffering, his experience. He is surrendering all that, always. He is consciously involved in the Presence of God, always. The action of devotion, then, undermines and ultimately replaces the false action of self-possession. This is the principle of the Way of Divine Communion: devotional action which is different from the action that is suffering and turning from God or from the Condition of Truth or Reality.
The practice of this Way is surrender to the Divine, That from which everything arises, of which everything is the modification, than which there is no other, which is Only. There is no center for That. Only when you have yielded entirely, when everything has been sacrificed, will you know that One perfectly. Thus, in the case of one who is engaged in the spiritual practice of the Way of Divine Communion there is reception of the Divine Presence, without any definition of what it does and is. First you must simply yield the circumstances that are the forms of your existence, so-called external and so-called internal. Then you must surrender the body. Then you must surrender your life-force, or your sense of energy. Then you must surrender the mind, or thinking or thoughts. Then you must surrender knowing, or knowledge. And then you must surrender self. All these forms of content, of distraction, must be yielded, from the heart, the great psychic region of your being.
This process does not involve acquisitive meditation on any centers of the body, in descending or ascending order. It has nothing specifically to do with the spine or the chakras, the internal energy centers. This process is simply reception and release without the traditional mechanics. You will see, when you are instructed, that it involves a certain depth, a certain opening, in which the entire psycho-physical mechanism must yield. Experiences may arise, but the specific responsibility of this initial or foundation process is not any esoteric yogic technicality. As devotees mature through the practice of this action that makes the old action obsolete, the grosser levels of obsession begin to weaken and attention falls into subtler tendencies.
At first there is much attention to life circumstances and struggling with a relatively orderly life. Later the gross ordinariness of your life begins to become orderly without great strain, and the content that arises becomes more subtle. Thus, you may very well, and in general you will, have subtle yogic experiences. You may even pass out of the sense of this body into visionary states and move into subtle perceptions. But the spiritual disciplines are not a way of aligning with the subtle dimension through techniques. They are a responsibility for Communion with the Divine.
Thus, whatever arises, you are to persist in Communion or devotion and yield even the subtle experiences. In this way, then, you will gradually be drawn into greater and greater sensitivity to That from which all this experiencing arises, all this thinking, all this knowing, all this being “me.” This Way is not something that you do and then God-Realization happens as a result. All who take up this practice must presently fulfill the Law. Grace cannot be communicated in a realizable form unless you fulfill the Law. Only to the degree that you fulfill the Law, which is sacrifice, or love, will you realize this Grace.
You will, in the course of this practice, see many things that may seem to you to be God. And not a single one of them is God, I will tell you this right now! Many of the traditions enshrine a something or other that they consider to be God, usually based on the experience of some great individual. These relics are not God. People are always saying about another that he worships idols, not the true God, as in the great religious wars, for example. There are idols within. There are idols within all the worlds. Your very functions are idols, not only the gross ones but the subtle ones as well. All the conditions of existence are possible idols. And you tend to worship all extraordinary perceptions.
Thus, when you begin to sense the Divine Presence, you will feel it first as force, and you will tend to make force an idol, consider it to be God, and become obsessively involved with self-manipulation for yogic or mystical experiences. Just so, when the body and life-force sensations cease, you may begin to hear inner sounds and you will want to make sound an idol, thinking it to be God. You will manipulate yourself in order to have experiences of subtle planes, visions and so forth. Or at some point you may begin to see light or lights and you will perhaps think that a color of light is God or that visible light itself is God. You will begin to manipulate yourself so that you can have experiences of light or contemplative experiences of a great brilliance. But these are not God. God is That from and in and as which all things or conditions arise.
You will notice, while watching things arise out of the force or the sound or the light, that something is not arising-which is “you”! You, who are wherever you are, are watching these things arise out of the gross physical or subtle physical or spiritual material, mental, or higher mental substances. But the Divine is of the nature of Consciousness itself. It is only in the case of perfect intuitive absorption that the Divine is Realized. Only when even self is yielded do you truly begin to see that Consciousness, rather than your inwardness or subjectivity or your consciousness. Then for a while you will think that being distracted by this intuition, to the exclusion of every possibility arising, is Realization. You must sacrifice that also and thus begin to permit the world, to see that the world is a modification of that same foundation, a play upon it. Even so, you will be somewhat “spiritual,” setting yourself apart in various ways and protecting your sublimity. At last your eyes will open fully, when you are sacrificed perfectly and perfectly undone in this devotion. Then there is only God, regardless of what arises-only God. Then preferences fail, designs disappear, strategies are of no consequence. The character of your present circumstances will cease to have any ultimate significance whatsoever.
Then you will be absorbed in the Divine always, regardless of the circumstances-waking, dreaming, or sleeping, alive in the gross plane or passed into some other appearance. You will truly realize the psycho-physical nature of the world. In the same moment that you appear in conventional terms-bodily, personally, doing, thinking, appearing ordinary-in that same instant and in every moment there is the Divine Intuition. It is not that Consciousness is some other principle against which this fantasy appears. It is one Reality. You will see that all this appearance is Consciousness. It has the same quality exactly as what appears when you look within to think. The manifesting world is mind. And it has no necessity. It simply persists. It goes on, it is play, it is humor. There are endless possibilities for other kinds of worlds and also endless possibilities for experiencing in this world-none of which is of any consequence to one who is free in God.