Fourth Stage of Life – Laughing Man Magazine



The liability in the fourth stage of life is the tendency
toward dualistic and dogmatic or fixed symbolic
interpretations of the Ultimate Condition and Destiny of the
world and of human experience. It is the tendency toward
vagrant psychism and illusory beliefs, founded in an
experiential state of undifferentiated unity with the
psychic root of the body-mind and the subtle dimension of
the world.

The Way of Translation of Man into God –
7: The Enlightenment of the Whole Body


Sometimes my heart would feel as though it were
bubbling with joy, such lightness, freedom and consolation
were in it. Sometimes, l felt a burning love for Jesus
Christ and for all God’s creatures,- Sometimes my eyes
brimmed over with tears of thankfulness to Gods
R.M. French, trans., The Way of a Pilgrim (New York: The
Seabury Press, 1972), p. 41

The fourth stage is associated in its beginning phase
with religious ceremonialism and devotional worship by such
means as prayer, sacramental service, and devotional
meditative contemplation of the Divine Person. The mature
phase of fourth stage practice is marked by meditative
absorption into the Life Current. This is the domain of
traditional Hatha Yoga which is essentially concerned with
the arousal of the Life-Energy (kundalini) through
psycho-physical exercises. In its more esoteric aspects,
however, this form of yoga pertains to the fifth stage.

The present section of The Laughing Man includes two
pieces. The first is by Swami Ramdas, one of the great
modern seventh stage Adepts, who taught and practiced the
fourth stage path of devotional surrender through

“nama japa” or the recitation of a Divine Name. The
practitioner of these techniques believes that by continuous
repetition of the Name his being will be absorbed in and
totally identified with God. It is a primary method in all
bhakti or devotional schools and thought to be singularly
suited for man in today’s “Dark Age” (Kali Yuga), Master Da
Free John writes about this devotional technique as

The spiritual views expressed by modern devotees of
the “Name” and “Form” of God are often blissful and true
reflections of the Transcendental Understanding that Awakens
in the higher or ultimate stages of life. Such views have
been fully expressed by many true Saints, including Sri
Ramakrishna, Swami Ramdas, and Seraphim of Sarov. However,
the method of Realization that is commonly proposed by
devotional cultists is a conventional exercise that
naturally belongs to the third and fourth stages of life,
and, by itself, it is only likely, to produce maturity in
the seventh stage of life (not to mention the fifth and
sixth) in extremely rare cases.

The method of “Name” recitation and chanting, coupled
with mental evocation of Divine Images, or else spontaneous
psychic Visions of the “Form” of the Eternal Divine, is the
common prescription for practice in the devotionally
oriented cults. But such practice is popular mysticism and
yoga of the type that appeals to the mind in its earliest
approach to God. Ultimately, the mind itself must dissolve
in the Living God, and all “Names” and “Forms” naturally
dissolve in the Process.1

The second piece in this section is a more comparative
article by the European indologist Georg Feuerstein, who has
recently joined the staff of The Laughing Man as Consulting
Editor. In his contribution he reviews some of the
traditional expectations of a mature spiritual aspirant and
compares these to the criteria given by Master Da Free John.
Feuerstein writes about the commitment and emotional
conversion necessary to begin the fourth stage, while also
documenting the trial of rigorous adaptation to the Awakened
heart which makes this transition the “most difficult

1. Da Free John, The Enlightenment of the
Whole body, pp. 267-7

The fourth stage of human development is characterized by
a mature feeling-surrender of the ego or the apparently
individuated being to the universal Life-Energy.

The passage into the fourth stage of life signifies
the mastery of body, emotions, sexuality, will, and the
thinking mind by the psychic, feeling heart. It does not
imply the annihilation of the ego. The functional ego, or
independent self-sense, is never annihilated in this Way of
Life. It is a necessary function of the whole body, like a
muscle or a thought. We cannot mature without having
acquired the sense of autonomous functional existence, and
we can never act without that function.

However, the autonomous ego-sense must be illumined
and transcended through the power of love. The heart must
awaken and mature in the feeling and intuition of


The transition into this stage of life is the most
difficult phase in the entire spiritual process. Prior to
this point of maturity, the individual is implicated in what
Master Da styles a “Lawless, subhuman existence.” With the
entrance into the fourth stage, genuine spiritual practice
begins, and life becomes “more creative and freely
voluntary.”2 Here the person becomes capable and
expressive of the quality of authentic devotion to the
Divine Reality.

Master Da Free John speaks of the “submission and
adaptation of all functions of the lower body-mind to the
sacrificial and moral disposition of the feeling or psychic
being. “3 The fourth stage practitioner has
awakened to the dimension of the “heart,” the functional
center of the body-mind, or the agency of the-feeling
intuition of the Divine. This is the stage in which one may
experience bodily states of profound pleasure and emotional
conversion in which the individual, in fourth stage
language, becomes submitted through love to the Grace or
Will of the “Holy Spirit,” “maha-shakti,” or Divine

What is the Great and Secret Principle of true
religious and spiritual life? It is Remembrance of God, or
continuous and whole, bodily Love-Communion with the Living
God. Such whole bodily Remembrance is not a mere mental
act-but it is a matter of full and free feeling-attention,
or love.4

This attitude of the loving, awakened heart of the true
devotee is beautifully illustrated in The Way of a Pilgrim.
After having practiced the “prayer of Jesus” for about three
weeks and nearly all day, long, the anonymous “pilgrim”
records this breakthrough in his devotional practice:

I felt a pain in my heart, and then a most delightful
warmth, as well as consolation and peace. This aroused me
still more and spurred me on more and more to give great
care to the saying of the Prayer so that all my thoughts
were taken up with it and I felt a very great joy, From this
time I began to have from time to time a number of different
feelings in my heart and mind.


1. Da Free John, The Enlightenment of the
Whole Body (Middletown, Calif,: The Dawn Horse Press, 1978),
p. 188.

2. Ibid., p. 338.

3. Ibid., p. 206.

4. Da Free John, Bodily Worship of the
Living God (Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn. Horse Press,
1980), p. 5.

Stage 4

God Experience

Swami Ramdas


Early in the morning of December 28, 1922, a slender man
of thirty-eight boarded a train in Mangalore, South India.
He had only two teeth in his mouth, a rough piece of cotton
for clothing, a few books (including-the Bhagavad-Gita and
the New Testament), twenty-five rupees, which he quickly
gave away, and nothing else.

As he headed south to an unplanned destination, he
engaged in the continuous repetition of the Name of God,
saying “Om Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.” His name in
worldly life had been Vittal Rao, but as he left Mangalore
he took the name of Ramdas, meaning “servant of God,” and he
began to refer to himself in the third person without the
use of the word “1.” He had just composed a friendly,
compassionate, yet detached letter to his wife in which he
stated his firm intention to dissolve their marriage of many
years, abandon a householder’s life with her and their
daughter, and assume the life of a wandering mendicant
without occupation, fixed abode, or any possessions.

This man, later known as Swami Ramdas, or Papa Ramdas,
was one of the most remarkable spiritual figures of the
twentieth century. As he wandered all over India, clad only
in a length of coarse cloth, he ceaselessly repeated the
Name of God, not as a mechanical aid to meditation but in
the spirit of ardent love and full surrender. He never asked
for food or lodging, but cheerfully accepted whatever
conditions came his way as the “lila” or play of God,
practicing what he was later to describe as tivra vairagya,
or “extreme dispassion.” As he wandered in total abandonment
to the Divine Will, he had contact with many great spiritual
figures, including Sri Ramana Maharshi, whose benign
initiatory glance, received at the beginning of his
spiritual career, served the ultimate transformation and
Realization of Swami Ramdas.

Dispassion, ardent devotion, and longing for God,
combined with an innate capacity for humor under almost any
circumstances, made him a striking figure who saw the
Reality of the Divine countenance shining through all the
masks of ordinary circumstance. When asked what God looked
like, Ramdas would answer with a laugh, “But he is standing
right in front of me!”

When Papa Ramdas died at his ashram in Kanhangad in 1963
at the age of 79, he left behind many volumes of published
teaching. His life had been characterized by great energy,
devotion, and contemplation of the sacred writings. Although
his realization was presumably that of the seventh stage of
life, he taught primarily the fourth stage path of
devotional surrender to God via repetition of the Divine
Name. Thus he can be regarded as a foremost modern advocate
of worship of God via this practice.

Excerpted from Swami Ramdas,
God-Experience (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1969), pp.
80, 82-83, 106-107, 173, 175-6.


Wondrous Name

Papa: There is no word in
the human tongue which wields such a marvelous power, that
mysteriously works for absolute good, as the Name which
stands for God. The Name of the Lord is the very expression
of God as a mystic sound. To attune the mind to the sweet
melody of the Name is to harmonize your life with the Life
eternal. The music of the Name brings about the union of the
individual soul with the universal Soul. When the soul loses
itself in the thrills generated by the Name, it attains a
state of ineffable ecstasy in which all forms and lives are
seen as the manifestation of the one supreme essence of
Truth. The Name expands the narrow vision of the individual
into a vision of infinite value and grandeur.

The soul, who is drinking deep at the nectarine charm of
the Name, rises from the lower worlds of fettered thought
and action and enters into the universal kingdom of freedom
and perfection. Now this transformed life reveals in all its
glory the magnificence of the basic Reality of which it and
the worlds are but expressions. By the power of the Name its
votary distinctly perceives the inner laws and purposes
which work out the external phenomenal changes in the

When the Name becomes the sole mainstay and refuge of the
aspirant who thirsts for the highest goal of
life-God-realization-he or she marches towards the ideal not
only in rapid strides but also with a heart filled with
courage and cheerfulness. Indeed, blessed is the soul who
possesses an unflinching faith in the greatness of the
divine Name!

It is rightly said that a king can extend his empire to
the ends of the earth, nay, he can gain even the lordship of
the worlds, but it is extremely hard to conquer and subdue
the mind. The real and the greater hero is he or she who has
controlled and mastered the mind. This mastery is possible
only when the invincible Divine energy latent in the heart
of the human being is awakened and is set to work in place
of the weak individual will and initiative. The Name, in
reaching this ideal, proves an invaluable and irresistible
means. Constant utterance of the Name arrests the restless
nature of the mind and, developing a high state of
concentration, conserves all the physical and mental
energies for removing the veil from the indwelling Truth who
is infinite power, light, peace and joy. In a word, the Name
is an unfailing key that unlocks the gates of the heart
permitting an outflow of immortal love, wisdom and power.
Thereafter, the soul is merged in the universal effulgence
of an eternal and all blissful existence.


Give Your Heart to God – Gopi’s

PAPA: You need not struggle to purify yourself.
Give your heart to God. Your heart becomes pure immediately,
when you love Him beyond everything else. Try and see how
wonderfully the transformation takes place. The very thought
of Krishna made the Gopi’s [cowherd maidens] forget
the body. Their lives were pure and glorious; great examples
to us. The very remembrance of Krishna gave them such divine
ecstasy. What a love they bore for Him! Continuous
remembrance means surrender to the will of God. It destroys
the-ego-sense and the mind becomes pure. Then you see Cod
everywhere. The whole universe is filled by His presence.
You become aware of this. Continuous remembrance, surrender
and universal vision mean the same. You start with
remembrance. That will remove the ego-sense, surrender
becomes complete and you realize Brahman [the
Absolute]-you see Him everywhere. For you then the
universe is no universe; it is Brahman. Jagat [the
world] as Jagat is unreal but Jagat as Brahman is real.
You behold unity in multiplicity. God can multiply Himself
into millions of forms.

There is an instance given how the Gopi’s at the very
sight of Krishna used to go into ecstasies and how they had
no cognition of time, place or condition. Once it happened a
Gopi asked her daughter-in-law to go to the neighboring
house to light a wick from a lamp burning there. She went
there and put her wick on the flame. It just started
burning; at that time somebody said Krishna had come; she
turned and saw Krishna at the door. Krishna disappeared, but
her consciousness was lost in Him. The lighted wick began to
burn her fingers. She was oblivious of the world and her
body. What love! The mother-in-law waited and waited, but
the daughter-in-law did not return. She came and witnessed
what had happened. She took off her hand from the flame and
led her home. This was the state of the Gopi’s. The very
sight and thought of Krishna had such a powerful influence
on them.


Divine Life

PAPA: A man cannot be judged by what he says or
writes but how he acts. Even that cannot be the criterion;
he can be known only by what he is-how he reacts to contacts
with people whom he meets. There you will find the real life
revealed in his movements with people. He may talk
philosophy, talk of Jnana [Self-Knowledge], deliver
discourses or sermons very impressively, but if he does not
live the divine life, he is nothing but a tinkling

You cannot live the real life calculatingly or by
planning. It must be lived out spontaneously, and that is
possible when God has revealed Himself in your heart. Then
your entire life is transformed and you live the real life.
It is not that you live the life, but God in you lives the
life. Your thoughts, words and actions are controlled by the
Divine. You cannot go wrong. There is no thinking or
reasoning there. That process has gone. The Divine is
working in you, through you. It is He who makes you think
the right thought, speak the right word and do the right
action. It is not your responsibility, it is God’s
responsibility. God and you are not different. The
instrument is He and the inspirer of the instrument is also
He. There is complete transformation. There is divinization
through and through. What a wonderful life!

God’s love is throbbing in your heart. God’s light
scintillates in your eyes. God’s power is flowing through
your hands and feet. Be conscious of this and all your
actions should be done as an offering to Him who gave you
all these. The gardener takes very great care to grow flower
plants. After some days ho finds beautiful flowers in them,
and they seem to be offering the flowers to him who
nourished and brought them up. There is a Kannada poem which
speaks of the plantain tree that brings out a big bunch of
fruit and finally bends. It is the earth which gave all the
necessary nourishment for its growth; so in gratefulness it
bends to offer the fruit to the earth! You see the mango
trees here. They bear many, many mangoes, and due to their
weight the branches bend as if to offer the mangoes to the
earth which enabled them to grow. So in gratefulness you
must give this life to God who gave it to you. You should
kneel down and offer yourselves to Him. In that offering,
your mind, intellect, body, everything is purified and you
become God’s own; and God will say, “You are Mine.” There is
no end of joy when you know that He has accepted you,
acknowledged you as His child.

Such is God’s love. Whatever your actions be in the past,
when you turn your mind towards God, all your past is wiped
away. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Give up all other
ways of approach to Me. Take Me to be your all-in-all.
Surrender yourself to Me. I shall liberate you from all your
sins. Grieve not.” So the moment you approach and bow down
to Him, surrender yourself to Him, that moment your entire
life is purified, elevated and illumined by His grace. “I
will liberate you from all sins.” It is a great assurance.
Otherwise, where is the hope for people in the world who are
prone to do so many bad things?


Continuous Remembrance

DEVOTEE: Ram’s will is supreme. We are told by
Papa that there should be continuous remembrance of God. So
we have to practice’ this remembrance every instant of our
life and be a witness of this practice. If the remembrance
is not continuous, should we repent or should we remain in a
state of surrender and submit to Ram’s will, feeling that
God does not want the remembrance to be unbroken?

PAPA: You must repent. The object is to have
continuous, unbroken remembrance. When there is a break,
naturally you must be sorry. Submission when the remembrance
is broken, means you allow the break to take place. The
lapse is your own, not produced by God, because the ego is
there. If you repent you will not have, breaks again through
your own forgetfulness or neglect.

Break in remembrance means break in your peace. You don’t
like it. You do not want those breaks to recur. You pray to
God not to allow such breaks: “Oh God, give me continuous
remembrance without any break.” When remembrance is
continuous, you will be alert within. There will be no room
for sorrow on any account. Repentance will help you to
remove the recurrence of forgetfulness which causes the ego
to come up. If light continues to burn, there will be no
darkness. Remembrance is just like having light always
within you. Forgetfulness means light goes out and you are
in darkness.

You remember God to dispel darkness and free yourself
from bondage. Ignorance creates trouble. Continuous
remembrance will develop into God-consciousness. Before you
can develop divine consciousness and realize your oneness
with God, continuous remembrance is absolutely necessary. If
you are humble before Him and pray to Him, He will bring
about a continuous remembrance in you. That requires contact
of saints, God’s grace and surrender to His will. Due to the
interference of the ego, forgetfulness comes. Discrimination
is to be used at this juncture.

Hunger for God


DEVOTEE: I repeat Ramnam, but there is no

PAPA: If you really want it, you will get it.
Where there is demand, there is supply.

Ramdas will tell you how. Ramdas himself hungered for the
Truth, went to saints and got it. If he had no hunger he
would not have got it. They cannot do anything for you if
you are not receptive. You must feel the want. You must have
a burning thirst for it. The condition is “hunger for God.”
You have seen so many saints. How is it that nobody was able
to do anything for you?

DEVOTEE: A saint can do what he likes. You must
give me that thirst.

PAPA: Ramdas is trying his best to see that
everybody is awakened, but nobody responds. Otherwise, he
would have transformed the whole world in a second. Do
constant repetition of Ramnam with full faith in Ramdas’
words. Then you will get everything in course of time.

DEVOTEE: Papa should give it. He has the power to

PAPA: Ramdas is giving, but nobody is prepared to
take. You are full of Kama [desire], Krodha
[anger], Lobha [greed], etc. There is no
place inside. You must leave the ego and surrender to the
Guru. The more you repeat Ramnam with faith and devotion,
the more you will become ready to receive the grace of the
Guru. You must do the Sadhana [spiritual practice]
and utterly surrender to. God. At once you will realize God.
Try for yourself by taking the Name constantly with full
faith. Everything is in Ramnam.

DEVOTEE: We have thirst for God, but don’t get
time to repeat Ramnam.

PAPA: Where is the thirst, if you do not take the
Name? Every minute available you will utilize for Ramnam.
How much time you waste in useless talk.

DEVOTEE: Domestic worries prevent us from taking
the Name. No concentration is possible.

PAPA: Concentration or no concentration: repeat
Ramnam. Your thirst for worldly things is more. If you have
real thirst for God, you will repeat the Name and all
worries will disappear.

DEVOTEE: But when worries are there, how to repeat

PAPA: If there is no worry, what is the necessity
of Ramnam? It is because of worry that you want Ramnam to
save you from the worry.

By discussing you cannot get anything. Intellect leads
you away from God. It is through the heart you get God.
Accept the saint’s words and act up to them. Give all your
love to God and call Him in utter surrender. That instant
you will have Him.


Come to Me When You Are Already

The Paradoxical prerequisite for the happy way of life
taught by Da Free John

by Georg Feuerstein

The curbstones of one of the walks at The Mountain of
Attention Sanctuary1 carry in white paint the
message, “Come to me when you are already happy.” This
seemingly paradoxical saying was the title to a discourse
given by Master Da Free John in late 1977.2 In
this important talk Master Da made the following

The search for happiness is not the position from
which to enter truly into spiritual life. You must approach
God as a devotee, already blissful, already free of fear,
already alive as love. Therefore, come to me when you are
already happy.3

1. The Renunciate Sanctuary and
Meditation Retreat of The Johannine Daist Communion and the
principal residence of Master Da Free John.

2. This talk was published in full in The
Way That 1 Teach: Talks on the Intuition of Eternal Life by
Da Free John (Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press,
1978), pp. 55-68.

3. Ibid., p. 63. 60


To the outsider this last remark will presumably sound
like a casual witticism. To the conventional seeker it will
be a perplexing demand. Is happiness not the target of all
our spiritual aspirations? Are we not constantly engaging in
strategies which are meant to alleviate and, hopefully,
surmount our usual condition of unhappiness? How, then, can
Master Da expect his disciples to approach him only when
they are already happy?

His saying is a profound “upadesha” or initiatory
utterance, which points straight to the wisdom of radical
understanding. It is given from the seventh-stage
disposition, and is intended to remind the questing disciple
of his innate Blissfulness, of his permanent inherence in

In order to bring out, and come to appreciate, Master
Da’s humorously serious utterance, it might be helpful to
take a closer look at the qualifications traditionally
looked for in a worthy disciple. This article has grown out
of a special scenario which Master Da graciously created to
sensitize me to the condition of “satsanga” or spiritual
relationship which he offers to all who will prepare
themselves to live it. I had been invited over from Europe
by The Laughing Man Institute to work with the editorial
team on more scholarly presentations of Master Da Free
John’s teaching, and was welcomed 6y the spiritual community
as someone who had done a certain amount of academic
research into Indian spirituality. Although I have been
involved with Yoga practice since my adolescent years, my
intellectual outlook has always been essentially that of a
scholar. This makes for a predilection to think before J
leap-which in itself is neither good nor bad; it is simply a
psychological disposition, one’s particular

Now, even though my acceptance of the Institute’s
invitation has been wholehearted and enthusiastic (and by no
means for scholarly reasons alone), the face-to-face
confrontation with the bodily reality of the spiritual
culture at once led me into all kinds of silent monologues.
In Master Da’s language, I reacted to my new environment by
“contracting.” An anthropologist might have diagnosed my
condition as “acute culture shock,” but this would have
missed the crucial spiritual ingredient in my inner
discourses, which consisted of a whole string of unanswered
questions, doubts, and more doubts.

Since Master Da does not grant “darshana”4 to
anyone who is not prepared for such a meeting-irrespective
of a person’s background or reputation-I simply dropped my
urgent hope to sit with him and abandoned any idea of
courting his attention. Nor could I conceive of a way out of
my inner dilemma, other than. by shelving the whole, matter.
At this point the first message arrived from Master Da: I
should pick up my garbage and dump it! It took no particular
powers of comprehension to grasp what was meant. I began to
make a more conscious and determined effort to cultivate the
equanimity which he recommends in his writings and to
understand my contractions the very moment they occurred. In
other words, I started to dump my garbage. A few days later
the second message was conveyed to me: I should compile a
list of three columns. In the first column I should list the
qualifications traditionally expected of a competent
disciple (adhikarin). In the second column I should write
down the qualifications required by Master Da of a pupil or
devotee, and in the third column I should enter all my

4. The word “darshana” literally means
“sighting.” Because of the Realized Condition of the Adept,
such sighting implies the transmission of spiritual Energy
and Consciousness.

I was surprised but not offended. Soon afterwards I came
to see the astonishing wisdom in this curious assignment,
and I received an impression of the compassion and concern
with which his advice seemed imbued. I took the assignment
quite seriously, and as my research progressed I found that
I was beginning to enter into an inner relationship with the
Spiritual Master which perhaps did not answer all my
questions or remove all my doubts but which created the
vital precondition of motiveless “listening.”

In this article I will summarize, and reflect upon, my
findings with regard to the first two columns. I will,
however, spare the reader the tedium, and myself the
embarrassment, of publishing the entries of the third

The relationship between teacher and disciple is
fundamental to the whole spiritual enterprise. All true
spirituality is of an initiatory nature. On the one side
there is the one who “knows,” the guru, and on the other
side there is the one who thirsts for “knowledge.” This
“knowledge” is not of the ordinary, conceptual variety. It
is knowledge, insight, or understanding which is conducive
to, and ultimately even equivalent to, Self-realization or
God-realization. As the Shiva-Samhita, an important Hatha
Yoga scripture, declares:

Only the knowledge which comes from the teacher’s
mouth is alive. Other forms (of knowledge) are barren,
powerless and the cause of suffering. (3:1)

Mundane, word-dependent knowledge is barren because it is
short-circuited; it remains within the conceptual realm.
Wittgenstein conceded as much when he said that philosophy
could not remove a fly from the fly-bottle. At best
conventional knowledge can lead to new experiences. It
cannot, however, act as a lever for making the transition
from “having” to “being.” It is not capable of changing a
person at his very core. It may have the force to refashion
a convinced capitalist into an equally convinced communist,
or a totally committed atheist into an equally committed
theist. Yet it can never transform him essentially,
radically. It cannot turn a rogue, or even a God-fearing
citizen, into a God-realizer, one who lives in, through, and
as the Divine.

For this radical transmutation to occur, all knowledge
and all experiences must be transcended. The human
personality must be utterly undone, uprooted. As Master Da

It requires a transformation in him that exceeds all
that he is, all that he tends to be; and all that he
prefers. It requires an absolute

5. Da Free John, Garbage and the Goddess (Lower
Lake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1974), p. 218.


For obvious reasons nobody-or practically nobody-can
achieve this great undoing by himself. It is far easier to
jump off the Golden Gate Bridge to end one’s life than to
consciously and from moment to moment grind away the hard
layers upon layers of resistive egocentricity which conceal
the Divine Light. Hence virtually all scriptures emphasize
the need for a true teacher (sad-guru) who has transcended
the ego. Master Da describes the function of the guru in
this picturesque way:

The Guru is like an elevator. He’s in the hotel lobby
with a nice marble casement and a needle above pointing to
the numbers of floors. It looks perfectly stable. You know
it has been there for a while. You dare to walk up to it.
You see buttons on the wall. The doors open. You look
inside. It is nicely decorated. A couple of people nicely
dressed come out and go to the cocktail lounge. So you step
in. You expect to rise, as all the traditions say. But you
fall right through the floor! He doesn’t support it, but he
appears ordinary. His activity is nonsupport in endless
subtle forms.6

Further on in the same book Master Da describes the
teacher as a “constant waking sound” (p. 152). This
awakening of the disciple is the teacher’s highest function.
According to the Kularnava-Tantra (13:128ff.), an important
Tantric text which has much to say on this topic, there are
six types of gurus. The “impeller” (preraka) is the one who
stimulates a person’s initial interest in spiritual life,
leading to actual initiation. The “indicator” (sucaka)
introduces him to the particular spiritual method (sadhana)
in which interest has been awakened. The “explainer”
(vacaka) explains to the student the process and its goal.
The “demonstrator” (darshaka) shows to him the working and
goal in more detail. The “instructor” (shikshaka) supervises
the actual spiritual practice. Lastly, the “illuminator”
(bodhaka) bring to fruition the work of the previous five
teachers by lighting up in the duly prepared disciple the
“lamp of knowledge.” Of course, these six teaching functions
can all be fulfilled by a single guru.

Whatever else these several functions may appear to be on
the surface, their common denominator is, as Master Da puts
it, the gradual undermining of the limitation called
“disciple.” Therefore, spiritual life can be looked upon as
a succession of tests and crises in which the “seeker” is
confronted with the absurdity of his seeking and with the
untenability of his present state of being. The teacher
constantly makes the pupil face himself.

6. Da Free John, The Method of the
Siddhas (Los Angeles: The Dawn Horse Press, 1973), p.

Thus spiritual pupilage is demanding, at times
excruciatingly difficult, and sometimes even painful and
dangerous; looked at dispassionately, it is a matter of life
and death. The Mahabharata (XII.300:50), one of India’s two
celebrated national epics, contains this stanza:

This great path of the wise’ brahmanas is arduous. No
one can tread it easily, 0 Bharatarshabha! It is like a
terrible jungle creeping with large snakes, filled with
pits, devoid of water, full of thorns and quite

The Katha-Upanishad (1.3:14), a Sanskrit scripture dating
back to the fifth or sixth century B.C., employs the
metaphor of a razor to highlight the difficulty of the
spiritual path. Understandably, all authorities are in
unanimous agreement that only the most determined and
keenest travelers on the road to Freedom will be blessed
with success. In the days before the term yoga came into
vogue, its equivalent tapas was widely used. This word
captures very well the intrinsic ardor of spiritual life. It
is derived from the verbal root tap meaning “to burn, glow,
be heated.” It is descriptive of the “stewing which every
aspirant must undergo in order to reach maturity. He has to
stew in his own juice just as-in mythological language – the
creator-god Prajapati had to “heat” himself, through tapas
or austerities, to be able to “sweat out” the whole

In Master Da Free John’s words, “When ordinary conditions
of life are themselves made forms of loving sacrifice, then
ordinary life itself becomes a form of ascetic practice or
‘tapas’ which means ‘heat’). The true Way involves
re-adaptation of ordinary actions and relationships to the
Law. Thus, such ordinary relations and enjoyments and
responsibilities become ascetic in the truest sense. They
awaken the ‘heat’ which is the sign of the frustration of
old adaptation. And this ‘heat’ (mental, emotional,
physical, and spiritual) purifies and transforms us in our
habits and liberates us from the illusory consolations of

7. Da Free John, Breath and Name (San
Francisco: The Dawn Horse Press, 1977), p. 103.

Because of the perpetual demand to transcend himself
during the whole course of his spiritual practice, the
disciple must come fully prepared to the sad-guru. What this
entailed traditionally, can, -for instance, be gleaned from
the Shiva-Samhita (5:10ff.). This manual speaks of four
types of aspirants. According to the intensity of their
commitment they may be called “soft” (mridu), “middling”
(madhya), “extraordinary” (adhimatra), or “very
extraordinary” (adhimatratama). The text goes on to
characterize each category. Thus the “soft practitioner,”
who is only fit for Mantra Yoga, or the Yoga of recitation,
is described as having the following (doubtful) qualities:
lack of enthusiasm, foolishness, fickleness, timidity,
illness, dependence, rudeness, lack of manners, and little

By contrast, the “middling practitioner,” who is capable
of practicing Laya Yoga (Yoga of meditative absorption),
would have these qualities: even-mindedness, patience, a
desire for virtue, kind speech, and the tendency to take the
middle path in all undertakings.

The “extraordinary practitioner,” who qualifies for the
practice of Hatha Yoga (the forceful Yoga of postures, and
breath control, etc.), is expected to demonstrate the
following virtues: firm understanding, an aptitude for
meditative absorption (laya), self-reliance, energy,
liberal-mindedness, generosity, patience, truthfulness,
bravery, vigor, faithfulness, the willingness to worship the
teacher’s lotus feet, and delight in the practice of

For the “very extraordinary practitioner,” who may
practice all forms of Yoga, the Shiva-Samhita lists no fewer
than thirty-one excellences: great energy, enthusiasm,
charm, heroism, scriptural knowledge, the inclination to
practice, freedom from delusion, orderliness, prime of
youth, moderate eating habits, control over the senses,
fearlessness, purity, skillfulness, liberality, the ability
to be a refuge for all people, capability, stability,
thoughtfulness, the willingness to do whatever is desired
(by the guru), patience, good manners, observance of the law
(dharma), the ability to keep his struggle to himself, kind
speech, faith in the scriptures, the willingness to worship
God and guru (as the embodiment of the Divine), knowledge of
the vow pertaining to the “extraordinary practitioner,” and,
lastly, the practice of all types of Yoga.

The Hathayoga-Pradipika (1:15-16), again, itemizes
various qualities which either hinder or facilitate
spiritual practice:

Overeating, overexertion, chatter, adoption of (wrong)
disciplines, social intercourse, fickleness-by these six
Yoga fails.

Through enthusiasm, determination, steadfastness, true
knowledge, certainty and the abstention from social
intercourse-by these six Yoga succeeds.

In the Bhagavad-Gita (ch. 2) Krishna reprimanded Prince
Arjuna for his weakness, unmanliness, and mean
faint-heartedness. He exhorted him not to grieve or be
deluded, butt to endure the “opposites” (dvandva), that is,
to bear with the changeable, paradoxical conditions of life
and nature, such as love and hatred, heat and cold, etc. He
challenged him to arise and fight; and this demand is
symbolic of the central message of all teachers to their
disciples. Spiritual life is action, and action requires
commitment, and commitment calls for faith, strength, and

In the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (vss.
51-53) the person who is fit to become transmuted into the
Absolute is described. According to this passage, he should
be endowed with a pure mind (buddhi) and firm self-control
to have abandoned the sense objects and be indifferent to
passion and aversion, to live in an isolated place, eat
sparsely, control his speech, body, and mind, and to
practice constantly the Yoga of meditation; he should also
be tranquil and cultivate dispassion, and be free from
egotism (ahamkara), lust for power, arrogance, desire,
anger, grasping, and the notion of “mine.”

In the Vedanta-Sara (section 5), a sixteenth century
manual of Vedanta metaphysics, similar stipulations are
found. Thus the qualifying aspirant must have regularly
studied the Vedas and auxiliary Vedas (e.g. phonetics,
grammar, etymology, meter, ritual, astronomy). He must also
be able to distinguish between things eternal and things
ephemeral, he must be able to practice dispassion towards
all forms of experience, high or low, and he must have
acquired the means of quiescence, self-restraint,
abstinence, endurance, concentration, and faith. Last but
not least, he must actually desire liberation-and not as one
might desire a new suit, automobile, or wife, but as a
drowning man would desire air.

It would be easy enough to multiply such scriptural
statements a hundred fold. Many Indian scriptures-ancient
and modern, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jaina-contain pertinent
comments about the signs of a duly qualified aspirant; but
the above examples will suffice to convey an idea about the
traditional expectations. It should have become clear by now
that these expectations were of the highest order. Thus,
“Come to me when you are already happy,” says Master Da, and
with this simple demand puts in a’ nutshell all the catalogs
of qualifications given in the traditional literature.

The God-realized teacher is not merely an instructor.
Strictly speaking, he has nothing to teach. Therefore, so
long as a person approaches the sad-guru in the mood of
seeking, he is bound to be disappointed and frustrated. In
The Method of the Siddhas Master Da spells this out very

A man should not approach his Guru in order to carry on
his search. He should approach his Guru with devotion, as
one who has found, and put his search down at his Guru’s
feet. The true disciple is a devotee who simply lives with
his Guru.8

To have come to this point of relative fulfillment, of
having found rather than neurotically seeking, a person
“must have passed through a critical consideration of the
total human situation as well as his or. her own habits of
action, feeling, reaction, and thinking.”9 He must have
traversed the “crisis of discipline” by which the neurosis
of the usual person is dissolved, and a certain measure of
equanimity and even a degree of ease and happiness must have
been attained so that the realized Presence of the sad-guru
may make itself felt in his life. Master Da is more

I am interested in finding men and women who are free
of every kind of seeking, who are attendant only to
understanding, and who will devote themselves to the
intentional creation of human life in the form and logic of
Reality, rather than the form and logic of Narcissus. Such
men are the unexploitable Presence of

In comparison with the traditional qualifications of the
foremost type of aspirant, Master Da’s expectations are
certainly as high but more realistic and also more
appropriate for modern conditions. A person need not be
anxiously preoccupied with all manner of strenuous physical
or mental disciplines, paranoid self-watching or
self-improvement, or the neurotic suppression of negative
desires and unwholesome habits. States the Tripura-Rahasya
(20:79), a text valued by both Master Da and the late Ramana

What is the use of a thousand good efforts when there
is no full intentness? Therefore, devotion (tatparya) alone
is the principal instrument for emancipation.

This “intentness” or “devotion” implies a radical
re-orientation, a conversion, of one’s whole being. It
implies the actualization of loveattention as taught by
Master Da. In The Paradox of Instruction he says:

The discipline of the true devotee, active on the
basis of “hearing” in Truth, is constantly, intentionally,
and with great feeling to bring the whole body-being into
loving, compassionate, pleasurable service and creative
cooperation with living beings and whole body (not merely
subjective) conditions. Service or love is pure

This is the discipline: in every moment, instead of
automatically aligning to the fixed disposition of reactive
emotion, and allowing it to control or undermine the natural
relational force of the body-being, turn into the present
relational condition with great attention, intuition,
energy, and feeling.11

Elsewhere in the same book (p. 69), he speaks of
responsibility and service as the “foundation discipline.”
What is required of the serious, mature student or disciple
is constant self-transcendence through radical
understanding. He discourages the past-oriented, guilt
ridden, self-indulgent approach. No one is perfect. What
matters is that one should again and again re-align oneself
to the primal state of one’s eternal Perfection. Gradually,
all the dross will fall away. This is no easy undertaking,
but a lifetime’s sacrificial self-offering.

It requires great responsibility, great intensity,
great energy, and great discipline of your karmic tendencies
and your cultic life. All those things are demanded of you,
and you are expected to fulfill them with absolute humor and
love and attention.12

So long as such virtues as truthfulness, rectitude,
courage, or self-reliance, etc., are practiced as egoic
strategies, they remain unstable “possessions” which need
constant, self-possessed attention. They may turn into
regular triggers for neurotic obsession and fascination.
They can grow into trees which will obscure the forest.
Genuine spiritual life begins with the dropping of this
teeth-clenching struggle for moral purity, or the
self-conscious drive for self-perfection.

Spirituality does not call for mortification. Nothing
needs to be “mortified” or as is the literal meaning of this
word-be deadened or killed off. World-negation and
life-denial are not necessary preconditions of spiritual
life. Rather, they must be recognized as partial strategies
which pertain to a particular cultural context and structure
of consciousness. They may have been appropriate and
adequate within that specific context, but today a
non-exclusive approach is not only possible but

Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra (2:33), the source book of the
so-called “Classical Yoga,” contains an aphorism which gives
out a method for counteracting unwholesome thoughts or
sentiments. Patanjali recommends that when such feelings or
intentions arise, one should repel them by cultivating their
exact opposite. For instance, when one feels tempted to lash
out at someone, one should remind oneself of the principle
of non-harming (ahimsa), or when one feels tempted to lie,
to remind oneself of the virtue of truth (satya), and so on.
Curiously enough, the Sanskrit word for this sort of
“reminder” is bhavana, which is more often employed to
denote meditation or contemplation. So, although the
Yoga-Sutra is not too clear on this, it could well be that
Patanjali had more in mind than a mere intellectual recall
of those wholesome principles. It is quite possible that
pratipaksha-bhavana stands for the meditative attitude of
remembering and thus of cultivating the “opposite” to
whatever undesirable intention may have occupied one’s

This would be more in keeping with the whole approach
favored and taught by Master Da, or at least an aspect of
his approach that first attracted me to his teaching. In
this path, meditation involves, among other things, the dual
practice of relaxation or release of the body into the
primal Disposition and transcendence of the objects of
attention via the “conscious process,” or the
moment-to-moment surrender of attention to the Divine. And
it is this act, performed from moment to moment, which helps
one to transcend one’s unwholesome, negative habits and
dispositions effortlessly. In order to outgrow dysfunctional
old habits one need not desperately resist or fight them,
but simply observe their existence and present influence in
one’s life and then repeatedly and wholeheartedly turn one’s
entire being towards the Transcendental Reality. They will
dissolve of their own accord. Master Da writes in his Breath
and Name:

In this discipline, all conditions are yielded to the
Presence, and the Presence is depended upon for all changes.
As a result, the true morality that only Divine Communion
produces begins to appear in the devotee in the form of
strength, intelligence, compassion, and loving service to
all beings.13

The spiritual aspirant on this integral “path” does not
narcissistically indulge in the usual construction of a
“separate reality.” He does not conjure’ up and inhabit a
larger-than life mental or psychic wonderland. Instead he
continues to live in the bodily present of the here and now,
fully accepting his normal life circumstances which offer
him a permanent possibility of transcending himself by
entering into heartfelt relationship with all beings and
events and modifications of the Divine (which is also his
own inmost nature). He will not search or strain for
happiness. Rather, he will find or recognize his eternal
Happiness in those moments when, amidst the ordinariness of
his daily existence, he is in full intuitive alignment with
the Ultimate.


Four months have elapsed since the writing of this
article. In the meantime I have been fortunate enough to
have had three formal and several informal darshanas
(“sightings”) of Master Da Free John, plus a good many more
notes from him. All this served to quicken my practice,
though not necessarily in the way that I had anticipated.
For the Adept’s function is truly to demonstrate to the
disciple his perpetual failure to live up to the high
expectations of spiritual life; to constantly remind him of
his habitual self-contraction and unhappiness, and to
confront him with his perpetual reluctance to face Reality.
In other words, I have had a taste of the “stewing” or
“heat” (tapas) that I have spoken about in the article. And
this is how it should be. As one of the favorite chants of
this spiritual community goes: “The Way is sacrifice of
self.” However, what is so remarkable about this teaching,
even in those moments which seem most arduous, is that there
is room in one for quiet joy, providing one is practicing
duly. The transcendence of the ego is, after all, a truly
humorous affair. For, who would have thought an illusion
could be so persistent even after having been recognized as

8. Da Free John, The Method of the
Siddhas, p. 58.

9. Da Free John, Scientific Proof of the
Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the White House!
(Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1980), p.

10. Ibid., p. 110.

11. Da Free John, The Paradox of
Instruction, 2d ed., rev. and exp. (San Francisco: The Dawn
Horse Press, 1977), p. 82.

12. Da Free John, Garbage and the
Goddess, p. 201.

13. Da Free John, Breath and Name, pp.


Nikhilananda, Swami, trans. The Gospel of Sri
Ramakrishna. Recorded by “M.” New York:
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1973.

R. M. French, trans. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim
Continues His Way. New York: The Seabury Press, 1965.

Poddar, Hanumanprasad. Gopis’ Love for Sri Krishna.
Clearlake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1980.

Habig, Marion, ed. St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and
Early Biographies. English Omnibus of the Sources for the
Life of St. Francis. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press,

Satchidananda, Swami. The Gospel of Swami Ramdas. Bombay:
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,


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