Alzheimers, Sleep, Attention, and the Root of Contraction
Adi Da Samraj, September 8, 2004
DEVOTEE: Beloved, I have a question about the faculty of attention. Over the last few years my mother has had Alzheimer’s, and as the disease progresses and affects her brain, I can see that she is losing her control over what she gives her attention to, and what she can focus on. And as I watch this occurring in her, it makes me feel how precious it is to have the ability to choose where I place my attention, and that in any moment I have this free will to place my attention on You. When I first read Your Dawn Horse Testament, I was very struck by Your Instruction about attention and how attention is the key to all the disciplines and every stage of life, waking and dreaming. I’ve always felt that under all[Inaudible] conditions, whatever was happening with the body-mind, that I had my attention available to me and that I could turn to You. My question is, Beloved, if a devotee at some point loses their control of their faculty of attention, as in what is happening with my mother, do they not lose the conscious linking of the body-mind to You?
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Well, you might just as well say that when a devotee sleeps at night they are turning from Me. But that obviously wouldn’t be a correct way to describe it. It’s simply a different kind of a state, not one you would want to define as one being dissociated from Me, presumably. Hmm? Hearing Me?
DEVOTEE: Yes, I hear you Beloved.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: You understand?
DEVOTEE: Yes, I understand that you’re saying that even during the sleep state, that, if one’s not aware of the attention, or the faculty of attention, that that does not mean that you are turning from You.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Yes, you know that when devotees sleep at night, they are not particularly putting their attention on Me, but you don’t have the sense that when devotees sleep at night, that they are all turning away from Me or dissociated from Me, have entered into some dark condition.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: You may not know exactly how to describe what people are doing when they are sleeping, or how to account for it, but you don’t really have the feeling that that would be a proper way to describe it, in the case of devotees. In the case of a person like your mother, or such as in the case of your mother, with this terrible Alzheimer disease … Is she still at a stage where she is self-aware, and conscious?
DEVOTEE: Yes, she is, Beloved.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: And that’s, if the word can be used, interesting. Even though you could say her ability to connect with the faculties in some outer-directed sense is progressively being interfered with, or breaking down as the brain is affected by the progression of the disease, until the person loses awareness altogether, as in sleep, there’re still aware of themselves. It’s not associated with the same thought-processes and memories and recognition of people and so forth, but they are still aware, of self, and this is significant. Where does attention arise, then? It is normally presumed, or conventionally presumed, that attention arises to meet objects, it arises with objects or in the moment of the appearance of objects, but it can’t be said that objects are the root of attention. Self is the root of attention. Awareness is the root of attention. And, as I said, until there is simply complete unconsciousness of the sensory connection, even as in sleep, there still is the presumption of the separate self, even where there is not the presumption of separate anything in relation to that self, or even where that becomes profoundly generalized, as in the case of advanced progression of Alzheimer’s. The fundamental or root circumstance of attention is not in the domain of the senses, or the mind, or any presumed objective world. It’s in the domain of self-consciousness.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: And no matter how the mental and physical faculties break down, as long as there is the sign of awareness, there’s still self-contraction, still the presumption of a separate self, however confused it may get because of deteriorating circumstances and so forth. This is still happening, and it’s never diminished. It’s never lost. It’s never changed. It’s never weakened. There’s full support for it, regardless of what happens with the subtler and grosser aspects of the body-mind process. The root or causal dimension, which is nearest to awareness itself, is the source of attention. There is a sense of separate self and therefore at least a rudimentary sense of relatedness, of difference, of otherness, until there is the loss of consciousness relative to psycho-physical conditions altogether.
You can see then how a devotee who has profoundly entered in to the Perfect Practice of this Way, might nonetheless continue in profound practice even under the worst of the conditions of Alzheimer’s …
DEVOTEE: Yes, Beloved.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: … because there still is the fundamental or causal or root situation. And that is also the case when My devotees sleep. The root or causal dimension is still established.
DEVOTEE: Yes, Beloved.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: It’s not lost. What does this suggest? That the root or causal dimension is the ultimate dimension of practice, and what prevents it? What prevents it essentially is the associations that the self-contraction, manifesting as attention, has become habituated to, habitually associated with, in the subtler and grosser aspects of the body-mind, or in other words the mental and physical, emotional dimensions of experiencing, and including experiencing what appears to be an objective world.
But even all of those things could disappear and there still is root awareness, and it still is manufacturing self-contraction, or engaging in the activity of self-contraction, and generating the illusions based on it. The first illusion is attention. It is the primary sign, the root sign of self-contraction or egoity. And this is precisely what ultimately must be transcended, and you can’t deal with it directly, by turning on it or putting attention on the right side of the heart or, on and on, all these programs of technique, can’t deal with it.
So there must simply be a profound outgrowing of the tendencies of attention in the gross and subtle domains, and then there must be a profound or Perfect Practice in the domain, root-domain, of egoity. And that is the Perfect Practice.
So, if physical awareness is lost, it’s still possible to enter into modes of awareness in the subtler domains.( And if .. ,) including all kinds of thinking and so on. And if the subtler domains are lost from attention, there’s still attention. There still is a fundamental or root dimension of existence and it is the primary dimension. You haven’t lost the fundamental sphere of Existence by losing the capability to experience the gross world or the states of mind. So even in the case of such a terrible disease, you see, there is no ultimate loss as states of body and mind break down and fall from awareness.
It certainly can be a process that people suffer. There’s no doubt about that. But I’m speaking in terms of how it illustrates the nature of the condition in which every human being is established, and how, even with difficulties in the conditions of existence, gross and even subtle, the fundamental root context of Existence remains, and cannot in fact be lost, and it has its own forms and signs and energies. It’s not simply attention. It’s the root of all of mind and gross experience as well, and has the seeds of all of that in it, and they are experienceable under certain conditions.
So it is in the case of your mother. So it is in the case of everyone, as they pass through the various states even in daily life, and as they pass through conditions of life over time, and as they pass through the final aspects of life experience, leading to the death transition. Therefore in fundamental terms, there’s always the possibility for the profoundest transcending of bondage itself, of egoity itself. Even that still remains of course. It depends on the disposition that is manifested by the individual.
But all it is to say is that the apparent perception of the world and the organizing patterns of the mind are not the ultimate context of Existence. They are merely apparent and arising in the domain of Consciousness. You never experience a concretely existing world. You only experience phenomena in the substance of Consciousness. You never experience anything except within the substance of Consciousness. You have never experienced an objective anything apart from Consciousness. It’s always made of Consciousness. It’s an apparent modification of Consciousness, or That Which Consciousness Ultimately Is, and the Condition That Is The Ultimate Condition of apparently separate consciousness.
DEVOTEE: Beloved, as a student-beginner devotee, is it then determined to the degree that the connection is made with You while attention is available? Does that determine the availability of that devotee to You when attention is no longer available?
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Attention is always available. That’s the point I just … well it’s part of the point I was just making to you. You see, attention doesn’t disappear.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: The mechanism associated with the experiencing of objects, gross and subtle, may disappear, and in fact it does, every day when you sleep. But the root condition remained even while you slept. And it’s not actually an unconscious state – it’s just presumed to be unconscious because there are no objects. None the less you know when you have rested well and deeply and when you have not. And you know or have tacit sense of enjoying sleep when you have rested well, and yet there’s nothing in its contents to remember unless you remember a dream, but that’s not deep sleep. It is itself a domain that does not disappear. The world comes and goes, gross and subtle phenomena come and go, but attention does not, Consciousness or Awareness does not. These are the constants, and in that most fundamental or root context of existence, the fundamental activity of egoity is to be found in its original form, its primary form, its causal form.
But Consciousness is, through the causal dimension of egoic consciousness, linked up with gross and subtle potentials. And those potentials are satisfied in the life and waking circumstance, and also in another form in the dreaming situation, because there are faculties available for experiencing the appearance of gross and subtle objects. But in the process of experiencing gross and subtle objects, the ego, consciousness, the separate self, forgets its actual or root situation, and forgets that these apparent objects – physical sensations, the appearance of a gross world, thoughts, imagination, dreams – in the experiencing of all these things, the root consciousness forgets that it is the Condition of these appearances. And so, as a matter of convention of daily waking-state presumption, people act as if What Is Real, is what I call the other side or reflecting side of the Water, what Narcissus sees, by looking at his own reflection, seeing apparent modifications against the surface, the glance of light that is made apparent by point of view and identification with physical and subtle mechanisms of experience. But all the while, the actual situation is nothing but Consciousness Itself. It’s entirely that and every possible object comes and goes. And everybody every day experiences the complete absence of objects, except for the ego itself, in the most rudimentary form, which is the sense of separate consciousness or attention itself.
And in the process of the Perfect Practice it’s precisely this root activity that is egoity that is directly transcended. Previous to the Perfect Practice it is the bondage to gross and subtle objects that is dealt with by the disciplines of the sadhana, which is a necessity because there simply is no capacity to be focused in the root position, to be simply standing in the root position. You can’t put attention on the root position, you see. The root position is Prior to attention. So there must be a kind of unlearning, so that the binding of attention to gross and subtle objects is relaxed in an equanimity that restores the native stand, the Witness position, or the primacy of the Witness position as the situation of Existence. Until then there is always various combinations of gross and subtle phenomena in the waking state that cause bewilderment and questions. And it is simply because of the habits of attention in relation to gross and subtle possibilities.
And in fact there is a feeling of fear associated with the thought of losing the ability to experience gross and subtle objects. When people think of someone with Alzheimer’s, when you think of your mother – of course she is intimate with you so you particularly suffer her difficulty – but someone who is not related to her in that intimate sense, just looking at her as she is, you see, would feel more of something relative to themselves that … how fearful they think it must be …
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: … to be losing awareness of the world, and losing memory and losing the ability to think. To the waking ego this sounds like perhaps the worst suffering, you see. And yet every night you easily, generally speaking at any rate, unless you have some problem, easily fall to sleep and relinquish every thought, every sensation, every relationship, in fact you relinquish the entire world [Beloved snaps His fingers] in a moment, without the slightest concern, in fact you do so with a feeling of pleasure and ease, generally speaking. Why is it so easy to go to sleep, you see? Why is it so pleasurable in fact, unless you’re otherwise disturbed by something, to go to sleep or even to anticipate going to sleep? Why don’t people feel the same thing about death? Or even the process of Alzheimer’s, putting aside the evident suffering shown in such cases? I’m talking about the fundamental notion of the basic thing that’s going on there, the loss of the ability to even conceive of the existence of the world, you see.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: But you do this every day and that’s what’s going on with your mother, and there’s some outer difficulties, whatever they may be in her case that you observe, but fundamentally she is going through the same kind of process that anyone goes through when they go to sleep. It’s just something that takes time and shows disabling effects in the domain of mind and body, and so it seems simply to be a kind of suffering, and certainly there’s a suffering in the body and the mind themselves, but the root person, or the person at the root is prior to the body-mind, and is always something like asleep, and effectively isn’t suffering that process. It’s the body-mind that’s suffering that process, not the root Consciousness, not the root of Existence.
DEVOTEE: Yes, Beloved.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Just the body-mind, you see.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: So devotees who take their practice of the relationship to Me seriously should understand that the … all of the stages of the process previous to the Perfect Practice are dealing with extensions of the Primary Condition, and it’s about outgrowing the bondage of attention to gross and subtle fixations. And it’s like going to sleep in some sense, it’s like dying in some sense. It’s not negative. It is a process that leads to Ultimacy and the transcending of egoity itself, the transcending of the illusion of separate consciousness, and the Realization of the State That Is Always Already The Case. Therefore that maturing in practice should be anticipated with great pleasure, as one would anticipate if one feels tired and one anticipates a nice rest. People think of sadhana as some kind of an ordeal of giving things up, sometimes, and so on. They are not focussed in the Ultimacy of this process. They are focused in the periphery and in the bondage of attention and in the exploitation of the potentials that attention is already bound to. But if you are profoundly moved to Me, you see, you are, in that turning to Me, relinquishing the binding force of attention, and the fixation or movement of attention towards gross and subtle objects is progressively diminishing perhaps, very significantly, quickly, moving toward the Perfect Practice. It simply depends on the factors of the individual’s disposition. But ultimately it leads to a practice that does not originate in the domain of the objects of the body-mind, gross and subtle.
The Perfect Practice exists in the domain that is prior to the body-mind and is a practice that enters into the Realization, direct Realization of the condition that is prior to attention itself, and therefore prior to egoity itself, prior to all relatedness, all separateness, all sense of otherness, all presumption of difference. It is the Realization of the True State, which can be called Samadhi. It is in that sense like sleep, in that it is free of all objects, and yet, unlike sleep, it is not invested in the darkness of merely separate consciousness or objectless attention. Instead it is established in the Self-illuminated Brightness of That Which is Consciousness Itself, The Divine Self-Condition, Which Is prior to and free of all objects and all modification and is not at all diminished by the worldlessness of the Divine Condition.
THIS is the purpose of sadhana. This is the significance of this sadhana you have entered into in My Company. This is its ultimate fulfillment. This is Divine Translation. When you all as beginners speak of the Way you speak in terms, you see, of your habitual egoic activity that is binding you to the waking state, generally speaking, or your bondage appears there most evidently, and your inclinations relative especially to gross and thinking processes, gross physical and thinking processes, and you make much of this and would fiercely hold onto all of this, it seems. And when you see someone else such as your mother going through a process in which it’s imposed on her, to relinquish it, you feel there must be something terrible about it. And as I said, apart from whatever evident suffering there is, fundamentally it is a simple entrance into an in-depth condition, ultimately, that is entered into by everyone in sleep and which is the same circumstance in which the Perfect Practice is engaged.
In fact, everyone is asleep. You never wake up from sleep. You are engaged in self-contraction and the imaginations or presumptions or view of the apparent world that takes place on that basis. It’s not that the world is unreal, it’s that you do not Realize the condition in which it is actually arising. So you are always in the position where you’re wondering “Is there a god who made all this?” blah blah blah, figure it all out, it’s all so confusing and everybody dies and it’s all terrible and you’re thrown around among a lot of emotions in the trap you appear to be caught in, and in fact you’re not in any such situation at all, and never were.
You are in a profound state prior to objects, but you don’t know it. You haven’t Realized it. You are not comfortable even with the notion of it, and yet you are very comfortable with sleep. You have no philosophical problem with sleep, and yet you seem to have a philosophical problem with death. And it’s not because of what you know about death. It’s what you think happens to life when you die. It’s the objectlessness that death seems to promise that you fear, and it’s ignorance that makes you fear it – a lack of knowledge, a lack of experience. Why should you fear it any more than you fear sleep? Why are you so afraid of loss of objects? Why are you afraid of the Water? Why are you afraid of the Very Condition you are in?
It is possible to notice in any moment, no matter what arises, you are the Witness of it! Nothing arises as an objective something. Everything arises as a condition of Consciousness. It is the Very Substance of the world, in your awareness of the world. The world never arises independently. If you were established in the Source Condition, prior to all objects, Which Is the Condition in Which any conditions appear to arise, then the Great Realization is made possible. But it is impossible if you build existence on attention in relation to objects. And that’s what you are habituated to however, as a beginner, or that’s what human beings in general are habituated to.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: They are philosophically ignorant. They are Divinely Ignorant, but also philosophically ignorant. They don’t examine the nature of experience sufficiently. It is uninspected, and they make conventional presumptions, or the presumptions that they are indoctrinated to make, by not only the imposition of body-mind experience but by the imposition of the social order that is motivated to animate everybody in the direction of survival. So there’s some kind of urgency about all of that that has to do with the survival of organisms, but there isn’t too much time being spent by people, dealing with the Ultimate Nature of Existence. And so all of that is pushed out of the domain of consideration and possibility or Realization, and never addressed – it’s taboo in fact, socially taboo, to enter into it because you’re liable to get too blissful and not participate in your piece of the survival obligations.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: But it’s perfectly possible to participate in survival obligations and compassionate, truly compassionate, relationship to other living beings …
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: … and yet at the same time be entered into the most profound of all possibilities, which is the Perfect Practice of this Way. What is required however is a foundation sadhana that addresses your habits of fear and perpetuation of dependency on gross and subtle objects.
DEVOTEE: Yes, Beloved. I understand that.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: I don’t know if all this babble of Mine is Addressing you question. Is it still in there somewhere?
DEVOTEE: No, Beloved, it’s long gone.[Beloved Laughs] I’m so grateful that You Spoke to me about such great and profound matters.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Tcha.
DEVOTEE: Oh, Beloved, You are so wonderful, You are so Great. It’s so thrilling to hear Your Voice on the other side of this phone.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Tcha.
DEVOTEE: Oh, Beloved, I will study every word You have Spoken to me tonight and I will apply it to my practice. Everything you’ve Said is completely true of me, as it is to everyone, and I lay my mother at Your Feet, Beloved, and all my relations.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: That’s good.
DEVOTEE: You are the Master of my heart, Beloved.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Tcha.
DEVOTEE: My heart is at Your Feet for ever. I love You. Thank You so much, thank You.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Tcha.
DEVOTEE: I hope to speak to You again, see You again, and always hold You in my heart, always.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Tcha.
DEVOTEE: Thank You, thank You, I love You. Da, Da, Da.