The Transcendence of Attention
Adi Da Samraj – July 23, 1980
The Mystery of our existence is not a problem to be solved. The search for an Answer implies that the Mystery of existence is a Question. And when individuals become bound to the presumption that the Mystery of existence is a Problem or a Question, their lives become a search for Solutions or Answers in the form of experience or knowledge. But the motive of all seeking is release from the felt dilemma that is the ultimate Problem or Question itself. And all experience and knowledge are nothing more than continuous meditation on the fundamental Problem or Question that constantly remotivates the search.
The only ultimate release from the presumed Problem or Question of existence is Realized in the transcendence of that presumption itself. The presumption of the Problem or Question of existence is a reactive contraction and conception of the body-mind. It is a reaction of the psycho physical self to the Mystery of its own existence and the Mysterious existence of thoughts, knowledge, perception, experience, and the various objects or relations encountered by the body-mind.
Therefore, the Realization of Truth is a radical matter of transcending the self-contracting, self-limiting, and self-defining reaction to the Mystery of existence. It is a matter of naturally or usefully abiding in the Condition of Mystery, or Ignorance, no matter what arises in the field of awareness. It is a matter of constantly abiding in the ultimate or Real Condition of all conditions, rather than reacting to events or conditions themselves. If this is done, then there is no Problem, no Question, and no seeking. And the apparent lifetime of the body-mind thus achieves equanimity, or freedom of participation, so that its destiny becomes natural, easeful, free of the strategies of ultimate fulfillment and release via knowledge and experience.
This consideration is the fundamental one of Truth, Enlightenment, or Happiness. It is not itself a strategy for attainment, an Answer to the search. It is simply the most radical or direct consideration of our existence.
I have described human existence in terms of a pattern of seven stages, in which the total evolutionary structure of human psycho-physical existence is taken into account. Those seven stages are natural to Man in his conventional identification with the body-mind. And all of the religious and esoteric spiritual traditions of mankind deal with the phenomena natural to one or another combination of these seven stages. But I have discussed the seven-stage Path of Man as a radical Way of self-transcendence, in which each stage is founded not in the evolutionary phenomena of the body-mind at that stage but in the radical or conscious process of self-transcendence. And I have called that process the Western Way, or the Way of Divine Ignorance.
When I first began to Teach, those who came to me were clearly unprepared for the discipline of confrontation with the most radical consideration of existence. At first, I simply maintained this radical consideration in their company. But, over time, it became clear that I would have to engage them in a total religious and cultural process, whereby they could mature toward the radical Realization of Truth. Thus, I engaged them in a theatre of instruction and gradually developed a religious, moral, and disciplined structure of cultural participation and experience that would serve them in their need. And the culture in which we now consider and practice is a full one based on the conception of the seven evolutionary and progressive stages of human adaptation.
But all of this moves toward the most radical Realization of Truth, Enlightenment, and Happiness. And the Way itself is conceived in the radical terms of the conscious process of self-transcendence and the transcendence of bondage to knowledge and experience. I myself have passed through the developments natural to each of the seven stages of human life. But in the ultimate Event, I understood the total process and Realized a most radical understanding of human existence. Therefore, I must say to you that, even though relative immaturity may necessitate participation in a developmental or evolutionary course of practice, there is also a most radical Way. That Way is made clear in the Realized Awakening of the seventh stage of life, and it is the Realization to which I was Awakened in the ultimate Event of my own practice.
In fact, I consider that there are actually two Ways, or two forms of the radical Way. One is founded in the conscious process of self-transcending insight, but it is also aligned to the process of adapting and growing toward maturity, stage by stage, until the Realization of full maturity in the seventh stage. The other or alternative form of the Way is a practice founded from the beginning in the mature or Awakened disposition of the seventh stage.
This most radical form of the Way is the basic subject of this essay. It is “esoteric” in the fullest sense–not because it cannot he openly described, but because it cannot be casually chosen or Realized. My experience with people has demonstrated to me that very very few people are personally prepared for this most radical practice or Way. Many people delude themselves into thinking they are prepared and suited for the most radical practice, whereas their practical human immaturity simply does not grant them sufficient free energy and attention for such a course. Likewise, many, by simply reading about the Way that I Teach, imagine themselves to be full of visionary excellence and Enlightened intelligence, so that they represent themselves as already Enlightened beings who need to apply themselves only casually, if at all, to the seven stages of practice. Therefore, this Teaching and the services of our Church are full of useful and positive criticism of illusions, so that everyone who is truly tested in practice and Enlightenment can enjoy the benefits of good and mature guidance. And the conventional immaturity of people would lead me to hesitate even to discuss the most radical approach to existence, except that I feel certain that every aspect of the total Way must be openly disclosed, in order that everyone can have access to both the progressive and the ultimate Wisdom of the Adept. Only such disclosure, coupled with right criticism, guidance, and admonition, can make it possible for each one, based on his or her actual maturity, to understand and truly choose the particular approach to practice that is appropriate in his own or her own case.
Therefore, in this essay I want to describe the most radical point of view and practice–the point of view and practice that is ultimate and that is obvious in the maturity of the seventh stage of life. Everyone who is considering the Way that I Teach should consider this most radical point of view and practice as well as the progressive practice of the seven stages. Most people can only choose the Way of the seven stages–and it is not in any sense a lesser Way, but it is simply the radical Way developed as a process of progressive maturity. Even as practice in the seven stages develops, this most radical consideration should be reviewed from time to time. And at some point within the development of that practice, sufficient maturity may be attained so that the immature or problematic conception of existence becomes calmed, and the search for fulfillment or release via knowledge and experience becomes calmed, thus releasing the energy and attention of the being from obsession with the body-mind. When that occurs, practice in the radical terms I will describe may become appropriate. Some who read this essay, and who have already entered into a free disposition and equanimity of being, may immediately choose to practice in the terms I will describe. In any case, everyone should consider what I say herein (and what I have already said of the radical Way within our existing literature), and so gain insight into the Wisdom that is everywhere fundamental to the Way that I Teach.
The Mystery of existence is obvious. We exist in eternal Ignorance, in a Condition in which we do not know what anything is. However, we are also related, or tending to be related, to many dimensions of phenomena. Our relationship to phenomena and to other beings is expressed as all kinds of knowledge about phenomena and others, and all kinds of experience of phenomena and others. Our knowledge and our experience are limited and mostly primitive (or expressions of lower adaptation), but even the fullest knowledge and the highest experience do not and cannot release us from the fundamental and irrevocable position of Ignorance. We are confronted by irreducible Mystery.
Because we are mortal and limited in our psycho-physical existence, we tend to pursue a lifetime that defends and otherwise expands the knowing and experiential self. And the presumption of existence as a mortal and limited self causes us to react to the very Condition in which we exist. Therefore, instead of existing at ease, allowing whatever exists simply to happen and change and disappear, we react and contract upon ourselves, and we seek knowledge and experience that will release us from the primitive suffering of mortal existence. But that very reactive contraction, and the search built upon it, are themselves based on a reaction to the Mystery in which we inhere, whatever out experience may be, and to which we are related through Ignorance, whatever our degree of knowledge may seem to suppose. Therefore, the conventions of our mortal knowing and experiencing and seeking are in fact–whatever they may also be as practical occupations–a reactive contraction of the body-mind, a self-bond in which the native Mystery and the native Ignorance of our existence are transformed and misinterpreted to be a Problem, a Question, a motivation toward ultimate fulfillment and release of a state of existence that is felt to be limited, vulnerable, and confined to the play of phenomena.
This reactive interpretation and motivated script of existence is false, unnecessary, and fundamentally disturbed. And it is both natural and necessary for us to transcend this entire program. If we mature progressively through the seven stages of the human or evolutionary culture to which the body-mind is fitted, then we will ultimately transcend the false presumptions and the negative script of Man as well as the psycho-physical- structure that is Man. Such transcendence is built into the evolving structure of human adaptation. But very few tend to progress beyond the rudimentary levels of human adaptation in a single lifetime, or even many lifetimes. Therefore, I have proposed and established the religious and esoteric culture of our Church, so that the necessary cultural instruments of progressive adaptation can be made available to everyone who chooses the Way. But it is also possible to enter directly into the Awakened disposition that is the ultimate point of view or practice made obvious to the Adept in the seventh stage of life. This is the point of view and practice I will now describe.
All our experience, all our knowledge, all our seeking, and every one of our presumptions about the circumstances and the ultimate Condition of our existence are dependently based on a single human mechanism. That mechanism is the activity of attention.
In every moment, the body-mind is confronted by a massive pattern of events, both physical and mental (or psychic). Therefore, in every moment, attention spontaneously springs forward to the events, perceptions and conception that are reflected in and as the body-mind. If the act of attention remains itself uninspected and uncontrolled, then we are led into an automatic process of action and reaction, or the conventional process of seeking, experiencing, and knowing that characterizes each ordinary individual life. Therefore, unless the act of attention is inspected, controlled, and ultimately transcended, our existence cannot be anything but a sequence of experiential and conceptual events. Unless there is a transformation of the very act of attention, we inevitably fall into the disposition of reactive and self-contracting identification with the mechanical body-mind, and that disposition is inherently one of mortal self-possession, founded in the sense of existence confronted by a fundamental and motivating Problem or Question. The false interpretation of the Mystery of existence as a Problem or Question, and the lifetime of seeking for a Solution or Answer in or through both knowledge and experience, are both founded in irresponsibility relative to the mechanism of attention.
Many Solutions and Answers to the Problem or Question of existence are offered by the traditions of religion, spiritual esotericism, mystical experience, vital or sensory experience, science, conventional society, and every part of the body-mind itself. But no Solution or Answer exists in the domain of knowledge and experience. Release does not come through any attainment of knowledge or experience, high or low, since the only ultimate release is a matter of transcending the mechanism that interprets existence as a Problem or Question in the first place. The transcendence of that Ignorance of our very existence. If such insight can be mechanism depends on insight into the mechanism itself and a subsequent transformation of the habit of association with that mechanism. Arid that insight and transformed habit amount to nothing other than establishment in the Mystery or Ignorance in which that mechanism itself is tending to arise.
Therefore, from the most radical or direct point of view, what we need is not any Solution or Answer or knowledge or experience, but moment to moment insight into the mechanism of attention, which mechanism is constantly arising, out of our control, from the depths of the Mystery or Transcendental Realized through inspection of the process of attention (and the entire adventure of subsequent experience and knowledge), then we are placed in a position (or disposition) wherein the act of attention can be controlled and, ultimately, transcended. And if the act of attention can be understood, controlled, and transcended, then we are placed in the Transcendental Position (or Disposition) of equanimity, ecstasy, or untroubled inherence in the Divine or Transcendental Mystery of existence itself.
In the seventh stage of life, the mechanisms of experience, knowledge, and attention have already been inspected, understood, and transcended. In the native disposition Awakened at that stage, it is clear that the entire adventure of the earlier six stages was nothing more than a play upon the mechanism of attention. Therefore, from the “point of view” Awakened at that stage, the Condition of the conditions of experience and knowledge is clear and Present. There is nothing to do but abide in the Condition of Ignorance (or Radiant Transcendental Being), observing whatever arises to be only a superficial, unnecessary, and non-binding modification of the Infinite Transcendental Radiance, projected via the stimulation of the body-mind and its root mechanism of attention. And by so abiding, observing the modifications of the Being to be only modifications of the Being, there is inherent transcendence of the Problem, the Question, and the search that is commonly built upon the conventional reaction to the media of attention. Therefore, the act of attention to the phenomena reflected in the body-mind subsides in the ecstatic equanimity of inherence in the Mystery of the Radiant Transcendental Being. In the process, the body-mind is itself released into the Infinite Field of Universal Radiance, so that the body-mind becomes Transfigured and Transformed, and, under some circumstances, it may even be Translated into perfect unity with the Radiant Being. In any case, once the Realization of the seventh stage is established, there is natural and radical transcendence of the body-mind through the undermining and ultimate dissolution of the mechanism of attention.
The act of attention arises toward others, objects, and conditions of every kind-whether subtle (or mental) or gross (or physical).
The arising of the act of attention is, Simply, the arising of the psycho-physical (or conditional) self and all others, objects, and conditions. And if what arises Is Presumed To Be Real, or Necessary, or Desirable, or Unavoidable, or Undesirable, or Avoidable-Then the act of attention Becomes conditioned Toward (or Habitually and Repetitively Fixed Upon) what arises.
In This Manner, Not Only Does the act of attention Become Bound To Specific conditional others, objects, and conditions (including the personal body-mind, or conditional self), but The Inherently Free (and Inherently Spiritual, or Love-Blissful) Transcendental Divine Self-Condition Of Mere Being Becomes (Apparently) Associated With (or Becomes, Apparently, Persuaded By) The Illusion Of Its Own Bondage.
The conditional Essence Of That conditional illusion Is the act of attention.
Therefore, The Only-By-Me Revealed and Given Way Of The Heart (or Way Of Adidam) Is The Way Of The Real (or “Radical”-or “Gone-To-TheRoot”) Transcending Of attention.
The Dawn Horse Testament – 2005 – Sutra 69
The urge (or the guidance) of attention toward particular kinds of physical and mental. (or psychic) objects brings us to birth in our present form. We continue to be reborn into the human form until we transcend the urge to attention to the particular kinds of objects that may be perceived or conceived in this form. Thus, we adapt and evolve until we transcend the human body-mind, and then we go on to adapt and evolve in other forms, until those forms are in their turn transcended. The only possible interruption in this course is, therefore, either a redirection of attention, (toward higher, or lower objects than are basic to human existence) or the transcendence of attention itself.
The Western Way of seven progressive stages involves a gradual transcendence of the habits of attention via an evolutionary direction of attention (or adaptation) toward higher or more essential objects. In the sixth stage, the process of attention itself is transcended. And in the seventh stage there is free existence, in which both attention and the objects of attention (high and low, subtle and gross) are constantly transcended through prior and ecstatic inherence in the Condition of Mystery (prior to knowledge and experience), or Divine Ignorance, or the Divine Self of Radiant Transcendental Being.
The two forms of the Way that I Teach may, therefore, be characterized in the following manner. The Way of progressive or evolutionary adaptation and transcendence, expressed in terms of the seven stages of practice, involves inspection, control, and right direction of attention, until the mechanism of attention in the body-mind are totally observed and transcended. The more radical Way involves simple, direct, and moment to moment transcendence of the field of attention itself.
The mechanism of attention is not and cannot be transcended by any strategy of self-conscious suppression or manipulation of attention and its objects. The mechanism of attention to psychic (or mental) and physical objects or states is transcended only when there is direct moment to moment insight into the process of attention, or recognition of the Condition of the various objects of attention. Therefore, the radical practice involves, first of all, simple surrender, or a disposition that simply allows the process of attention and the objects of attention to arise as they will and to be what they will. Then, as the states of attention arise in the field of awareness moment to moment, there is the simple and direct intuitive recognition that whatever is arising is only a superficial, unnecessary, and non-binding modification of the Radiant Transcendental Being, or the Condition that is awareness itself (prior to the act of attention, knowing, and experiencing). In this manner, the effects of attention are transcended in each moment, and abiding in this disposition undermines and ultimately dissolves the motive, activity, structure, and effects of psycho-physical attention. Thus, by simply abiding in the prior Condition of all experience and knowledge, the necessity, effect, and very arising of conventional attention is undermined. And the Realization of this disposition is expressed either as “Bhava Samadhi,” or Ecstatic Transcendence via the temporary or permanent dissolution of attention (or psycho-physical states) or as “Sahaj Samadhi,” or Ecstatic Transcendence via insight into the results of attention (which are the various possible psycho-physical states). And as long as psycho-physical existence continues (in Sahaj Samadhi), the phenomena of Transfiguration, Transformation, and even psycho-physical Translation will tend also to arise.
The “practice” in this most radical form of the Way does not itself involve any disciplines or activities of the body-mind. One who practices in this manner would naturally and already have attained or adapted to functional and social habits that are Life-positive, harmonious, appropriate, and free. Therefore, the radical practice is not itself oriented toward or concerned for such things. Anyone who can truly practice in this radical manner would already be habituated to an economy of psycho-physical existence that is free of inherent disturbance, urges toward chaotic exploitation of the body-mind, attachment to knowledge, experience, or relations for their own sake, or dependence upon elaborate and fixed conditions of existence in order to maintain either Happiness or the disposition to practice. Thus, anyone practicing the more radical form of the Way in our Church community would simply practice the Transcendental exercise of the way itself under the circumstances of an ordinary economy of personal habit and service.
The specific “practice” in this most radical form of the way is simple, moment to moment observation and recognition of the Condition of whatever arises in the field of awareness. Therefore, that practice is described as follows: Simply observe whatever arises, whatever attention finds in the field of awareness. Do this moment to moment, under all circumstances, in times of relative activity, and in times of respose – waking, dreaming, or sleeping. Do not force attention to go within (either toward internal mental and psychic objects or toward the root of the “I” thought and the root of the gesture of attention itself). Do not force attention to go outward (toward physical or perceptual objects and relations). Simply observe whatever is arising as the effect of the spontaneous movement of attention, within or without. Remain as surrender–that is, simply allow whatever will arise in the field of awareness to arise and be whatever it will, or to change or disappear as it will. Exchange the now or radical habit of observing what arises for the old or conventional habit of engaging what arises. That is, simply remain in relationship to whatever arises, aware of whatever arises, rather than identify with, enter into, or avoid whatever arises. Whatever arises is nothing more than a modification of the Energy or Consciousness or Being that is awareness itself. Therefore, simply allow and observe whatever arises, and, in every moment, “see” or recognize whatever arises to be simply a modification of awareness itself. Do not be troubled by anything that arises. Simply allow and observe and recognize it. Do not become motivated by anything that arises. Simply allow and observe and recognize whatever arises. (Participate in thought and action only to the degree that is necessary within the ordinary economy of your habit or obligation, and, even then, remain in this disposition of surrender, simply allowing, observing, and recognizing the conditions, states, and relations of the body-mind. Thus, over time, you will become less and less occupied with activity and thought and you will abide more and more in simple recognition of all conditions in the Radiant Transcendental Being.) At all times, under all conditions, simply allow and observe and recognize all arising conditions as modifications of the Field of awareness, and so abide in deep or transparent and prior identification with the Transcendental and All-Pervading Divine Self-Condition that is tending or appearing to be modified as knowledge, experience, or body-mind. Do this constantly. Abide as this disposition constantly. Do so in the Holy Places of Communion. Do this whenever you are with the Spiritual Master. Do this under all circumstances and in all the states of the body-mind–waking, dreaming, or sleeping. Thus, abide more and more deeply and constantly and simply as awareness itself. If your lifetime becomes this practice, there will be a gradual release of the connection of attention to arising psycho-physical states. Attention is the basic automaticity that is arising, thus causing arbitrary and binding association with forms of phenomenal experience and reflected knowledge and the dis-ease of the search for release. Transcend the automatic gesture of attention by abiding in the disposition I have described. As the attention-reflex subsides, only deep or transparent identification with the prior Condition of awareness or Radiant Transcendental Being remains. Then see the Truth and the Condition and the Destiny of existence. Go into that Truth and Condition and Destiny, free of arbitrary attachment to this human body-mind and all the limited and fruitless affairs of this world. The Radiant Transcendental Being, or simple awareness prior to the objects of attention, is not turned in upon itself, nor is it turned away from any thing or any one or even the world itself. It is simply Radiant Being, beyond knowledge, description, place, time, or body-mind. Do this practice, or abide as this disposition, until all arising, or the automatic gesture of attention, is transcended in unspeakably Radiant Bliss. And, as long as the body-mind lives, function usefully in its terms, always in equanimity, never turned away but always simply aware in relation to what arises, recognizing what arises in every moment. Do and think to the degree necessary for ordinary survival and compassionate service. Allow the body-mind to be Radiant as the Being, expressive of Freedom, Love, and Happiness. But simply allow the body-mind and the world to arise. Simply observe and recognize whatever arises. Allow the body-mind to enter into the economy and equanimity that express the Radiant Being. Do all of this more and more profoundly. Maintain all of this practice until death and through death and whatever follows. Allow all attention to subside in Blissful Being and ecstatic inherence in the ultimate Domain of God, the Being Who Lives and seems to be Transformed into the body-mind and the world. Choose this practice, enter into its Realization, and come to me for help, guidance, and instruction whenever it is necessary and appropriate so to do.
Adi Da Samraj – July 23, 1980