Nirvanasara – Introduction – Georg Feuerstein

Radical Transcendentalism and the Introduction of Advaitayana Buddhism
Da Free John (Adi Da Samraj)
Table of Contents


Introduction by Georg Feuerstein

1. From Scholarship to Understanding

How does one introduce a great adept (maha-siddha), a living Buddha, and his compassionate, prophetic teaching? In the following essay I have given my own answer to this question. I have tried to keep myself open to, and to faithfully represent, the teaching of Master Da Free John, while at the same time endeavoring to remain sensitive to the naturally skeptical posture which, I suspect, most readers will maintain while perusing this volume.

I have written as one who has committed himself to a particular way of life, namely the spiritual path hewn out by Master Da. Simultaneously, I have brought to bear on my presentation whatever scholarly skills I have acquired in my professional career as an indologist. I must state at the outset that in making this communication I have had only one purpose in mind: to aid the understanding of those who, like myself, approach life rationally but who, nevertheless, are capable of acts of intuitive recognition and spiritual appreciation.

This book will only make sense if the reader is willing to at least seriously consider two possibilities (which I myself have come to accept as facts):

1. There is a transcendental Reality.

2. This transcendental Reality is the Condition of body, mind and world.

These are bold propositions for the agnostic and pragmatist, but this book does not defer to the professional skeptic or materialist at all. It is mainly directed at all those who sit on the fence: those who are too wise to fool themselves with materialistic values and concerns, but also too indecisive to take the plunge into spiritual life; those who wish their life would be different but do not know how to change it; those who are tired of the thraldom to arid scholasticism and quietly hunger for a more meaningful way to use their cerebral dexterity; those who are prepared to change their life but have been waiting for the right stimulus and context.

It is my heartfelt hope that this book can tip the balance for them-to the side of a full spiritual life.

For those who can see eye to eye with the above two propositions, it will only be a small step to the acceptance of the idea that in some individuals the transcendental Essence is “out front,” that they have, paradoxically, died as separate entities while continuing to be alive, and that this has nothing whatsoever to do with schizophrenia. Once this has been understood, it will not be too difficult to further realize that such rare beings could indeed have a special function to fulfill in spiritual life. Where a real leap of understanding (rather than of faith) has to be made is in the recognition that the adept, or the enlightened being, could be instrumental in one’s personal spiritual endeavor.

Although this volume contains essays by Master Da Free John which do not match the scholarly stereotype of the adept as a “naive bumpkin,” as Master Da put it recently, nevertheless they are all authored from the adept’s point of view. Master Da concedes that there may have been adepts who would fit the “naive bumpkin” myth, invented by scholars mainly to buffer their profession against interference by adepts. However, the higher adepts, especially of the sixth and seventh stages of spiritual life, typically communicate a very sophisticated teaching (see pp. 22ff.). Such adepts, having transcended the discursive mind, operate from within a different frame of consciousness. Thus, Master Da Free John creates his essays spontaneously, and they are not merely the product of his ruminations on what he has studied. In point of fact, Master Da reads very little, and the ideas which he expresses are simply grounded on his “psychic relationship” to the traditions and to literature.

His communications are an expression of his “free attention,” and they freely and directly reflect, as he puts it, an ultimate transcendental consciousness. Hence the “adept’s point of view” is, quite simply, to serve the enlightenment of others. So, even whilst Master Da is responding on a level of consideration that scholars will presumably find stimulating, he does not write as a scholar or theoretician nor in order to indulge the scholastic mind. His technical essays on Buddhism and Advaitism are simply a new way of expressing his teaching, and as such they complement his many other oral and written communications.

Several of my friends and colleagues have expressed their surprise at the fact that a self-transcending adept should write at all. In doing so they have-in the politest or perhaps the most disingenuous fashion-given vent to their basic disbelief. But the question springs from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a realized adept. If one is willing to concede that an enlightened being can eat (much or little), walk (barely or long distances), talk (ecstatically or didactically), be humorous or serious, and sleep (hardly ever or like everyone else), then why should he not write as well if it serves the purpose of his teaching work?

The siddha-pursha cannot be gauged or measured by his apparent behavior. The “awakened one” ~ the transcendental Reality. The processes which occur in, and the conduct of, his body-mind are devoid of an ego. They happen spontaneously, just as the body-mind of the ordinary person “happens” spontaneously, though he superimposes a false identity on it and becomes enamored of and possessed by it. And because there is no ego obstacle in the Realizer, his body-mind is fine-tuned to the Invisible and acts as a powerful transmitting agent for those who are spiritually attuned.

I consider myself most fortunate to have entered the ambience of one of the truly great spiritual Lights of today’s world. Master Da Free John’s compassionate presence has already greatly transformed my life. His Teaching has definitely lured me down from the fence on which I had been sitting uneasily for a good many years. Many others have experienced a similarly profound change and the benefits accruing from this. But, of course, spiritual life does not unfold mechanically. It requires passionate commitment and constant application to the art of self-transcendence. However, the adept’s efficacious presence and, in this case, the most rounded spiritual teaching help one to pass through the necessary transformation more surely.

I am aware that the stance I have taken in my introduction to this auspicious volume is incompatible with the current “objective” fashion of science. But this has ceased to trouble me. What concerns me, though, is whether the reader-regardless of whether he is a scientist or a “layman” – will be sufficiently sensitive to his own intellectual predilections and emotional predisposition so as not to allow them to muffle the clear message in the essays by Master Da Free John. I sincerely hope that at least one or the other reader can actually “hear” the adept’s central argument. It is always the same argument, irrespective of the subject of his consideration or the style in which it is conducted. It is always an insistent call to actual spiritual awakening and practice, the essence of which is perpetual and unsparing self-transcendence.

There is another aspect to Master Da Free John’s essays which is likely to perplex and possibly even incense one or the other staunch adherent of Buddhism. This is the declaration of his radical teaching as the Fourth Vehicle of Buddhism. Again, I can do no more than point out that this is an adept’s enunciation and as such warrants a most careful, open-minded consideration. I am confident that, if the reader is a seriously practicing Buddhist who truly experiences “the heresy of the assertion of an ego” (Visuddhi-Magga XVII), he will have no difficulty whatsoever with this declaration of Advaitayana Buddhism or its essential teaching.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to do guru seva in the shape of this introduction, and I respectfully bow to Master Da Free John.

2. Frog Perspective vs. Bird’s Eye View

When, in 1336, Francesco Petrarca climbed Mont Ventoux in the South of France, he effectively freed himself from the tunnel vision of the reigning structure of consciousness of his time. His vision of the valleys far below jolted him out of the dreamlike self-containedness that characterizes the “mythical consciousness” 1 of medieval Gothic art, piety, and feudalism. He awakened to a new mode of perceiving the world; he began to see things in conscious perspective. And Petrarca (1304-74) was aware that his “discovery” of perspectival space would be of far-reaching importance to others.

1. I have borrowed this concept from J. Gebser, Ursprung und Gegenwart, 3d ed., 3 vols. (Munich, 1973).

Petrarca stood at the threshold of the Renaissance which, in a certain sense, can be said to have reached its climax in the genius of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) who was the first to solve the theoretical problems of perspectivity. His achievement was paralleled and augmented by the heliocentric “revolution” of Nikolaus Copernicus, Christopher Columbus (who opened up earth’s space), Galileo Galilei (who used the telescope to disclose the vastness of outer space), Johannes Kepler (who replaced the ancient idealistic circular model of planetary motion by calculated ellipses), Andreas Vesalius, Europe’s first great anatomist (who explored the body’s inner space), and so on.

Petrarca’s Mont Ventoux experience has nothing in common with the sense of achievement, of egoic pride and self confirmation, that the veteran mountaineer feels when he has successfully scaled and “conquered” a particularly difficult peak. Nor must it be compared with the feeling of mere aesthetic pleasure of the occasional wanderer who, picnicking on a modest peak, admires the panoramic scenery of the valley beneath him. For Petrarca the experience was a sudden widening of his cognitive horizon, a strengthening of his capacity for world understanding and self-insight. His was an experiential encounter with a new “paradigm.” Although it occurred on the personal level, it was yet thematizing a new general awareness which was shared by other sensitive thinkers of his period and which, before long, became a part of the sensibility of the Western European civilization and its epigones.

I have begun this introductory essay with Petrarca’s auspicious discovery for two reasons. Firstly, because the full awakening to spatial consciousness which typifies the Renaissance is the psychohistorical foundation for the hypertrophy of reason, in the form of materialistic rationalism, witnessed today in all areas of human life. Secondly, because Petrarca’s Mont Ventoux experience affords a fitting metaphor both for the vantage point of Master Da Free John’s teaching in relation to religious or scientistic doctrines, and the implicit demand his communications make on the reader. Like Petrarca, the reader is expected to burst through his familiar cognitive universe into the wide-open horizon which informs Master Da’s teaching. In other words, he is encouraged to share Master Da Free John’s panoramic vision of existence as seen from the very summit of human life.

In the Yoga-Bhasya (1. 47), the oldest extant commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra, an ancient stanza is cited which speaks of the yogin who has realized the summum bonum as follows:

Having ascended to the tranquillity of gnosis (prajna), the man-of-gnosis beholds all grief-stricken creatures as one standing on [the top of] a mountain [beholds] the valley dwellers.2

2. This is a recurrent metaphor in the Sanskrit literature of Hinduism and Buddhism

The same idea is epitomized in the well-known Sanskrit concept of kutastha which literally means “summit-abiding” or “standing on the peak.” The expression is for the first time met with in the Bhagavad-Gita, which dates back to the fourth or fifth century B.C. There it is applied to the adept who is fully “yoked”:

The yogin whose self is content in gnosis (jnana) and world knowledge (vijnana), standing on the peak with his senses subdued: he is called “yoked” (yukta), and to him clods earth, stones and gold are the same. (VI. 8)

In two other stanzas (viz., XII. 3 and Xv. 16), the term kutastha is employed to refer to the transcendental Reality per se This second usage is in keeping with the fundamental notion that the wholly realized adept is coessential with the Ultimate.

Interestingly, R. C. Zaehner3 drew attention to a striking parallel in the writings of two little-known but important Christian mystics, Hugh of St. Victor and Richard of St. Victor. In his De Vanitate Mundi, which is a commentary on Ecclesiastes, Hugh speaks of the “flight” of the soul whose “keen perception” – from the bird’s eye view-“naturally reaches further when directed from above on things that lie below, when it sees all things, so to speak, together.”4

Even more remarkable in its similarity with the Hindu metaphor are the following two passages in Richard’s Benjamin Minor:

The high peak of knowledge is perfect self-knowledge. The full understanding of a rational spirit is as it were a high and great mountain. . . . 0 man, learn to think, learn to reflect upon yourself and you will have risen to the deep heart! (75)

Let a man rise up to the heart’s high place, climb up the mountain if he desire to attain and know what is above the human mind. Let him rise up by himself above himself, and from self-knowledge to the knowledge of God. (83)5

3. See R. C. Zaehner, “‘Standing on the Peak’: A Concept Common to the Victorines,” Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershom G. Scholem on His Seventieth Birthday Jerusalem, 1%7), pp. 381-7.

4. Ibid., p. 384

5. Ibid., p. 386.

The above considerations describe, I trust, most aptly the particular context in which the present essays and all the other oral and written communications by Master Da Free John must be placed if one is to do full justice to them. Master Da always and necessarily speaks as a realized adept or transcender. He has no secular ambitions and, in particular, no scholarly axe to grind. His “motive” is compassion (karuna), which is the natural complement of his transcendental realization (prajna). If, in this volume, he addresses some perhaps more technical and intricate matters, it is because he has recently been moved to respond on this level of sophistication.

This volume of essays is, then, an invitation and a challenge to the reader to examine and understand the inherent presuppositions of his own world-view and, having identified its intrinsic limitations, to ultimately and actually remove his cathexis in regard to it. In fact, only when such a metanoia has occurred in the reader can he hope to “hear” the essential argument of these essays. Prior to that he will be handicapped by the restraining influence of his personal “world hypotheses” which, for the most part, are only rarely the product of deliberate philosophical effort rather than subconscious “information” stemming from one’s socio-cultural environment and individual biography.

Thus, the reader is expected to make an advance comparable to Petrarca’s. He has to climb the mountain, that is, he has to countervail his own cognitive tendencies and habits of thought. But once he has reached the peak, that is, when he has successfully checked his resistance to change his mental outlook, all effort must cease. He must simply remain open, as Petrarca succeeded in doing for at least part of his experience, to take in the new vista and let it act upon his whole being. For some this may prove easier than for others, but in every case an epochistic6 bracketing of presuppositions is required: a mental holding of the breath as it were, when all doubt and superficial criticism is at least temporarily suspended, and when one has ears to hear and eyes to see.

6. This refers to the phenomenological act of epoche’ as formulated by E. Husserl. See M. Farber, The Foundation of Phenomenology, 3d ed. (Albany, N.Y., 1968), pp. 526f.

This free, open, unneurotic attitude is essential in reading this book. For, what Master Da Free John seeks to convey in his essays is both subtle and profound. It will only be offensive to those who have cut-and-dried answers to the big questions of life and who entertain hard-shelled preconceptions and prejudices about religion, spirituality, and in particular the Indian traditions. They will find that Master Da does not cater to any conventional expectations. He writes and speaks as a realized adept, not as a philosopher, scientist, politician, or novelist. He does not presume any of the usual limitations. In other words, he does not play the game. This is always vexing for those who fail to understand that their reaction to such enlightened “spoil-sports” is an expression of their neurotic relationship to life as a whole.

Scientists are, perhaps, especially prone to “cast the first stone” at any maverick who, as they would have it, encroaches on their pet discipline but does not play according to their rules. There is a high degree of conformism among scientists (as a subculture), which may partly be due to the world-wide streamlining of government-financed research since the 1940s. Bur in part it is undoubtedly also bound up with the scientists’ self perception as a group of specialists overtly or covertly cherishing the quasi-religious presumption of possessing the “true knowledge,” the key to understanding existence. In the course of the gradual debunking of the post-Enlightenment ideal of scientific objectivity, doubt has also been cast on the integrity of the scientist as a manipulator of data. And rightly so. The scientist is first and foremost a human being, and this means that his scientific activity, like any other activity he may engage in, is embedded in his total psychology. That is to say, he is subject to misunderstanding, ignorance, prejudice, misrepresentation, and even deliberate distortion of reality (‘tailoring of facts”). In sum, he does not enjoy the adept’s “view from the peak.”

Even where, as Isaac Newton has done, the scientist helps to institute a new “paradigm,” a new framework for formulating and interpreting scientific data, his vision remains partial and angular. This has to do on the one hand with the psychological and cognitive limitations of the scientist as a member of the species homo sapiens, but on the other hand also with the inherent boundaries of science itself. For, as Master Da Free John has explained in his illuminating talk “The Asana of Science,” science is a particular way of seeing the world. In his own words:

Science is an invention of Man that represents the development of one specific convention of interpreting reality exclusive of other possible conventions …. To do science, you must take on a pose. That pose is not the disposition, however, of Man as a whole contemplating Infinity.7

7. Unpublished Talk (October 25, 1980).

Science, as we know it today, is thus a product of the particular consciousness-frequency which, at least for Europe, emerged in the Renaissance and was developed ad absurdum in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Science is more than the organized and institutionalized study of phenomena with the view of predicting events in the material cosmos; it is more than the sum of accumulated knowledge acquired by applying the scientific methodological canons; and it is more than the cooperative effort of a group of specialists. It is also, and primarily, a specific cognitive mode. Master Da describes the scientific method as a mood of doubt. And he further indicates that in its globalization as scientlsm or scientific materialism it is, as Master Da styles it, a veritable culture of doubt. Scientism is not only a calling into question of everything, while being unhappily wedded to the psychological need for absolute certainty (even when it is cautiously expressed in probabilistic terms); it is also a concealed form of cynicism or nihilism insofar as its program excludes a priori certain “bothersome” questions, subject-matters, and methods which are dissparagingly branded “metaphysical.”

Although the methodological credo of scientism is to excise the observer from the process of knowledge in order to arrive at the “objective” truth, science as scientism has yet the most profound personal and social repercussions chiefly through the medium of technology. Indeed, it implicates the “observer” to the point of usurping and traumatizing him. The scientistic method of certainty-through-doubt has, in fact, become a way of life, a “metaphysics,” for millions of people. As Master Da Free John noted:

We are so used to the presence of science and technology in our culture that we believe science is a natural activity, a sort of professionalization or technical elaboration of something that everybody is already doing. But this may not be the case. The activity of science may not be natural at all.8

Today, scientism or scientific materialism is firmly entrenched in the cerebral pathways of the vast majority of “consumers” of the high-technology nations of the world; and, as a surreptitious component of the technological export package, it is beginning to take its toll also in the so-called Third World.

In his first essay in the present collection, Master Da Free John contrasts the scientistic culture of doubt with the culture of certainty which is rooted in what he styles the “Great Tradition,”, that is, the religio-spiritual traditions of the world. The punctum dolens which separates science and scientlsm from the Great Tradition is the existential status of the “invisible” or immaterial dimension of the universe. The scientist flatly denies the existence of what is valued most in the Great Tradition or, if he is inclined to make any concession at all, argues that if “higher” cosmic dimensions did exist, science could never know anything about them since their very invisibility or immaterially precluded scientific experimentation. The left-brained scientist demands “concrete” evidence which can be translated into instrumental measurements. His favorite sense is sight-not the visio Dei but the perspectival image conjured up by the neurons of the brain and the rods and cones of the material eyes. Naturally, the Invisible is beyond the pale of physical vision and therefore also does not figure in the scientific interpretation of the universe. The fundamental scientistic doctrine, amounting to a metaphysical axiom, is that “seeing is believing.” But “seeing” is always given a very restricted meaning, and “inner vision” is dubbed hallucination.

8. Ibid.

It is important to understand that in making the contrast between scientism and the Great Tradition, Master Da Free John does not merely restate in so many words the age-old scission between rational scientific knowledge and irrational, religious faith. For, he tacitly affirms that the method of science and the methods (“way”) of the religio-spiritual traditions of mankind are, on a comparable level, both generative of knowledge. Implicit in his argument is the predication that the Great Tradition is not primarily a culture of (blind) faith-as against the scientistic culture of (pure) knowledge and (absolute) certainty-but a culture of experiential knowledge. The “scientific method” of the Great Tradition is an inversion of the orthodox scientific procedure inasmuch as it is founded on the implication of the subject in the noetic process. In fact, the “theory” of the Great Tradition rejects the observer model of science as introducing an artificial disjunction between subject and object. This leaves it free, on the “experimental level,” to resort to epistemic means generally outlawed by orthodox science, viz., introspection and supra sensuous cognition which, in India, is known as “yogic perception” (yogi-pratyaksa).9 And the “instrumentarium” for the practitioner of the Great Tradition is his own body-mind.

9. All spiritual traditions of India are agreed on the possibility of supra sensuous knowledge. A distinction is made between paranormal cognition and the immediate apprehension (saksatkara) in mystical experiencing.

However, as Master Da Free John explains in subsequent essays, the respective forms of knowledge yielded by scientific materialism and the Great Tradition are, ultimately, both to be transcended. For, from the realized adept’s “summit” point of view, both are still mere representations of reality, and not Reality per se. But, whereas scientific materialism, confining itself to segments of the visible realm of cosmic existence only, is a dogmatic commitment to the frog perspective of unillumined intelligence, the Great Tradition has the intrinsic potential of generating the bird’s-eye view of the self- and world-transcending adept. Possibly, the phrase “bird’s-eye view” is still misleadingly suggestive of perspectival and hence one-sided knowledge. In actuality, the adept’s authentic locus is in what Master Da styles “Divine Ignorance” or “seventh-stage wisdom.” The adept, to be sure, is not a knower but a transcender of knowledge, knower, and known. His transcognitive stance, or mood of certainty through – Realization, truly enables him to serve and not merely ideologically exploit the world. The kutastha has, it is implied in the Bhagavad-Gita, “become the Absolute” (brahma-bhuta), and the Absolute is not hampered by the perceptual-cognitive apparatus of the body-mind; rather, it is traditionally styled “omniscient” (sarva-jna), though this omniscience is not knowledge of particularized objects.

Scientific materialism and the cultural attitude which it informs are implicitly atheistic, and where they are tenuously associated with theism, the latter is typically of a highly secularized, demythologized cast of religiosity. In his essay “God as the Creator, the Good and the Real,” Master Da Free John comments that “atheism proposes a myth and a method for ego-fulfillment.” This, mutatis mutandis, is also true of conventional religion and, to a degree, even of the modes of higher esotericism. Atheism is camouflaged religiosity. As Vincent P. Miceli observed, “Atheism’s vigor arises from its heroic will to create mythical gods in place of the true God.”11 Atheism is, therefore, as much an opiate for the masses as Karl Marx thought religion was. Moreover, as Master Da points out, in their political dimension both atheism and religion resort to materialistic modes of control. Both are manifestations of the ego and as such are partial approaches to Reality, angular visions of the Truth. Both may be regarded as instances of what one might call “the fallacy of misplaced finality”: the confusion of experiential knowledge of reality with Reality itself, that is, the absolutization or deification of fragments of reality.

It is only when the egoic root of our functional, worldly, and religious spiritual life is inspected, understood, and transcended that self, and world, and God are seen in Truth. (See below, p. 84)

The “mountain peak” of spirituality ascends so steeply that the ego cannot find a foothold on it. One could also say that the ego belongs to the climber’s gear which must be abandoned in the course of his ascent. The peak will only sustain the most sublime. Indeed, if I may stretch this metaphor still further, the mountain’s pinnacle looms into the truly rarefied atmosphere of the Invisible and therefore cannot sustain anything but that which is, or has become, invisible itself.

Whilst one may characterize atheism as the religion (or irreligion) of the visible, the raison d’etre of religion is the Invisible. Scientific materialism, which is per definitionem atheistic, is the glorification of the visible aspect of the universe. And by “visible” is here meant the entire spectrum of phenomena amenable to “verification” and translatable into ocular proof or its analogues. It is a left-brained monopolization of truth, seeking to grasp reality by way of “rationalization,” that is, literally, the “reckoning” by parting, dividing, fragmenting, atomizing,, or quantizing. Now, the Invisible can never be rendered visible. It is inconvertible. But the visible can be rendered transparent to evince its invisible, hidden foundation. That is the domain of religiosity and spirituality.

10. The phrase “Divine Ignorance” simply refers to the highest or “seventh-stage” Realization of the One Being beyond all experience and knowledge. From a practical point of view it is bodily surrender into the indeterminate Reality and abidance as the Transcendental Consciousness which is devoid of all content.

11. V.P. Miceli, The Gods of Atheism (New Rochelle, N.Y. 1971). p. xiv.

Master Da Free John’s teaching is securely founded on his personal realization of the ultimate Condition. And it is from the realizer’s or adept’s point of view, and not merely from the limited perspective of the theoretician, that he engages in metaphysical considerations. It is this fact which must be duly appreciated, for it lends uniqueness and authority to the following essays. This is, to all intents and purposes, the very first time that a maha-siddha communicates the realizer’s apical view in the medium of the contemporary mind. By virtue of this, Master Da’s communication is intelligently critical of the conceptual and ideological structures that are today’s forms of ego affirmation or denial, rather than transcendence. And, for the same reason, his message is not only searching and profound but also encompasssing. In his own words:

My Way is a radical Teaching that enters into consideration of all the stages of life and the entire Great Tradition of the ancients and their modern representatives. (See below, p. 71.)

Just as Buddhism and Advaitism stand in critical relation to the traditions and stages of life that precede them, and just as each advancing stage of Buddhism and Advaitism stands in critical relation to its precedents, my own Work also develops a form of Argument based on criticism (positive and creative rather than merely sectarian and destructive) of the entire Great Tradition that is our Treasured Inheritance and all of the developing stages of life that are our school of transcendence. (See below, p. 108.)


The Seven Stages of Life

The main conceptual tool by which Master Da Free John appraises, and allows others to similarly understand, the spiritual status of the many idiosyncratic expressions of human life and thought is the schema of the seven stages of life. The seven -stage model, which is among Master Da’s original contributions to the theory and practice of spiritual life, is a map of man’s total potential for psycho-spiritual development. As Master Da explains:

In the traditions of spiritual culture, the development of a human being has commonly been described in terms of seven stages, each spanning a period of seven years. There is a rational basis in Awakened Wisdom for this scheme. That basis is the very structure of the total bodily being (or body-mind) of every human individual. We are a composite made of elements and of functional relations, a coherent life-form expressed via the nervous system and brain, and levels of mind that may consciously reflect not only the gross or “material” realm but the realms of Life-Energy and all the cosmic realms or media of light. At the root of this system is the heart, the primal organ not only of life but of consciousness in man. It is here that the presumption and conception of egoic independence, or the separate “I,” arises in every moment. It is on the basis of this presumption that the human individual is predetermined to a reactive life of fear, vulnerability, flight from mortality, and a universal constitutional state of contraction, That contraction encloses consciousness in the limits of skin and thought, and it separates the whole bodily being of Man from the Divine Radiance and Perfect Consciousness that is otherwise native to it and eternally available to it in every part ….

The culture of the Way of Divine Ignorance may also be related to the traditional scheme of seven stages of growth.

But it is founded on the Awakening of the heart, from self-possession to free feeling-attention, via all functions, in all relations, under all conditions. Indeed, the whole Way is the Way of the heart.12

12. Bubba I Da I free John, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body)’ (Middletown, Calif., 1978), pp. 189-90.

Now, the human body springs from a single cell. Researchers on human development conceptualize this original cell as being “totipotent,” that is, as possessing the capacity to become the fundamental structures which compose the fully developed body. This primary cell carries a kind of blueprint of the mature organism into which it can develop. However, in order to manifest these differentiated structures, the cell must forego its “totipotency” in favor of specialization and individuation.

One can usefully apply this biological insight to the sphere of man’s overall psycho-spiritual evolution. As neonate the individual has only a dim awareness which allows him to relate to his environment just sufficiently for his survival within a protective, caring human society. World and ego are as yet a kind of primordial soup. Most of man’s neonatal behavior is purely reflexive or instinctive, and his “lifestyle” is one of utter helplessness and complete dependence.

The first stage of life relates to the individual’s physical adaptation to the world into which he was born. Here he learns “simple” skills like focusing with the eyes, grasping and manipulating objects, walking, talking, controlling bladder and bowels, thinking conceptually, and relating to his fellow-beings. At the end of this phase, the growing individual is a fully mobile ego who, providing that no serious maladaptation has occurred, is a strongly self-centered but educable person.

The second stage of life, which extends approximately from the eighth to the fourteenth year of life, concerns primarily the maturing individual’s emotional and sexual development. With the growing awareness of himself as a social being in a shared life-world, the young personality is confronted with increasing outside demands that conflict with the egoic tendency towards self-assertion and autonomy. In particular the awakening of sexuality is a possible source of great tension and inner conflict and must be integrated into the total emotional development of the individual. Sexual maturity depends on the ability to enter into a mature emotional relationship with others. Master Da Free John observes:

Because of the generalized antisexual taboo to which so-called civilized societies oblige their members to adapt, people today tend not to grow and adapt to full relational sexuality. Instead, the individual tends to remain more or less bound to the primitive and infantile sexuality of his or her own bodily self.

The pleasurable and sexual nature of one’s own bodily being becomes clear in the earliest years of life. But the ecstatic or self-released fulfillment of bodily life is possible only in intimate and feeling submission in relationship. However, the antisexual influences that pervade our experience even in childhood suppress our relational adaptation and leave us self-conscious in our natural relations. . ..

[When spiritually sex-positive] influences are not present to oblige people to sane, human, and higher use of their sexuality, the body of the individual tends to remain as the field of sexual practice. Thus, even when a sexual partner is available, the uninitiated and irresponsible individual tends to remain essentially hidden and self-possessed in his or her practice. Love and desire tend to be more or less crippled in such people. Indeed, love and desire even seem to be in conflict. But love-desire, the single force of sexual ecstasy, is the necessary foundation of sexual relationships and sexual embrace.13

13. Bubba lDa] Free John, Love of the Two·Armed Form (Middletown, Calif., 1978), p.64.

In the third stage of life, stretching approximately from the fifteenth to the twenty-first year, the person, ideally, comes to full intellectual maturity. The underlying theme of this phase is mental-intentional adaptation to life and the integration of the skills acquired, and the lessons learned, in the first stages. When this process is complete, the individual will have a clear self-image and be capable of relating functionally to the world. As Master Da Free John explains:

The third stage of life is mature when the individual enjoys integrated responsibility for the whole of the living being (physical, emotional-sexual, and mental). Thus, he is in that case able to be present as a clear will and as love under all the otherwise frustrating or pleasurable conditions of lower experience. Those who seek to begin spiritual life must be mature in this sense in order to move on to higher maturity.14

That not a few people fail to arrive at this point is borne out by the leviathan of social problems, like alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, racism, chronic depression, suicide, and so forth.

14. Bubba (Da) Free John, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body. p. 196.

Fewer still take the next step – into the fourth stage of psychic adaptation. Those who succeed in doing so have actively entered spiritual life. The first three stages happen to overlap with the individual’s psycho-physical epigenesis from neonate to adult. In their spiritual aspect, however, they call for a conscious application to his personal integration by which he can move beyond the mere functional adaptation expected of a mature member of human society. With the fourth stage of life, the commitment to ego-transcendence, tacitly present already at the culmination of the third stage, has become a sustained, if still limited, obligation. Master Da notes that this stage “is characterized by submission and adaptation of all functions of the lower body-mind to the sacrificial and moral disposition of the feeling or psychic being.”15 Now the individual cultivates the practice of faith, love, trust, and surrender in relation to the transcendental Being. This coincides with the opening of the “heart,” leading to an acute awareness of the tendency towards self-encapsulation, the recoil from Ecstasy or the Bliss of the transcendental Being.

This awareness or sensitivity is heightened in the fifth stage of life. Here the individual’s awareness shifts from the perception of the physical dimension to the experience of the “subtle physiology” of the body (and mind). This extends the radius of his cognitive field, and offers him new opportunities for self transcendence. This is the demesne and area of obligation of the conventional mystic and yogin. It is the field of all forms of esotericism involving the activation of the subtle or higher psycho-physical structures of the body-mind. As Master Da elucidates, attention and the “Life-Current” become established in the brain core. On the level of conscious experiencing this manifests in the form of supraconscious states (samadhi). He comments:

In the fifth stage of life, yogic mysticism raises attention into the extremities of subtle experience-or the heavens of ascended knowledge. But Liberation in God is not Realized at that stage or by such means. In order for the Life-Current to cross the Divide between the “third eye” and the “sahasrar,” or between the body-mind and Infinity, the gesture of attention and the illusion of an independent conscious self must be utterly Dissolved in the true Self.

The highest extreme of the ascent of attention is called “nirvikalpa samadhi,” or total Absorption of selfness in Radiant Transcendental Consciousness. But, in fact, the seed of differentiated self remains in such ascended Absorption of attention. Attention is yet extended outside the heart, or the root of self-consciousness, as a gesture toward an independent Object, and, therefore, such “samadhi” is not only temporary, but it remains a form of subject-object Contemplation.16

Through further spiritual growth, by means of the transcendence of the ego that has been disclosed in the experiences of the first five stages, the spiritual practitioner arrives at what is traditionally known as Self-realization (atma-bodha). At this point the individual awakens to his transcendental Identity or atman or purusa. More precisely, he awakens as the Self. He now knows himself to be different from the ego, or the limited bodymind, which he once believed to be his true identity. The sixth stage adept, in the language of Hindu non-dualism, has become the transcendental “witness” (saksin) of all phenomenal processes. The sixth stage coincides with the uprooting of the “gesture of attention,” which is the transcendence of all object consciousness.

This is the condition of conventional liberation, variously styled apavarga, mukti, mokfa, or kaivalya. In the non-idealist language of (original) Buddhism, which does not revolve around the conceptualization of a transcendental Self-essence, this superlative condition or attainment is regarded as the “extincction” (nirvavna) of the desires which bind the individual to the world of objects and suffering. Nirvana is thus the realization of the “object” of the Buddha’s silence. The idealist schools of later Buddhism gave voice to that silence about metaphysical matters by formulating a philosophical position approximating that of the Hindu schools of non-dualism (Advaita Vedanta). Yet, in terms of the practical consequences on the level of the sixth stage of life, it makes no difference whether the self is seen, in the language of Buddhist realism, as “non-self” (anatman) or merely as the abstract name for a “bundle of factors,” or whether, in the language of Hindu idealism, it is seen as “non-Self” (anatman) or the antithesis of the transcendental Self. Both approaches share the sixth-stage characteristic of the transcendence of the self and of attention.

However, and this is the pivotal point of Master Da Free John’s teaching, a further moment of growth is possible which perfects the whole protracted endeavor towards ego-transendance: In the seventh stage of life, the liberated “individual” recognizes the incompleteness of his self-sacrifice and, in doing so, enters sahaja-samadhi, the enstasy “with open eyes” as Master Da names it. This is equivalent to God-realization, for now the transcendental Self is no longer pitted against the phenomenal world. But, through a last act of self-sacrifice (which is from then on repeated ad infinitum), the world is recognized as continuously arising in the Ultimate Being which is coessential with Self. This is how Master Da explains this ultimate Realization:

Thus, in the seventh stage of life, or the Way of Radical Intuition, the soul Exists in Ecstasy, as the Heart!? (rather than in the heart, or the inner being). And in this Perfect stage of life the Bodily Life-Current is Released or Liberated from the body-mind and all association with the internal mechanisms of the brain core. When the devotee abides as the Heart, re-cognizing all phenomena as only unnecessary modification of Itself, while It neither embraces nor resists any experiential condition – then the Bodily Life-Current becomes not only naturally polarized toward the brain, and thereby Released from concentration in the lower functional body, but it is actually Released even from concentration in the brain. This is due to the fact that the mind, or the independent gesture of attention, is itself Dissolved through re-cognition in the Heart.l8

16. Ibid. pp 422-23

17. The “Heart” is another name for the Divine Self, the Intuition or Realization of the Radiant Transcendental Being or God.

18. Bubba [Da] Free John, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, .p. 424.


Nirvanasara – Table of Contents