“Non-dual” Teachings, Talking Schools and Spiritual Transmission
Excerpts from talks on
What Is The Conscious Process
The understanding of the relationship between the devotee and the Spiritual Master is of great importance since is the basis of all spiritual traditions, prophecies and teachings.
If people didn’t fully study my Teaching on this matter they might tend to associate and even identify it with some of the traditional exercises … in such traditions as the Advaitic tradition. And there’s a tendency in the Advaitic tradition to develop this kind of talking school approach to Realization. And therefore it tends also to legitimize the point of view of certain kinds of advocates who can be read, and even heard in public. Who preach to people about consciousness and call them to identify…merely to identify with it. They try to talk people into identifying with consciousness, or merely to relax their minds and so forth, and settle into a conscious state, that doesn’t have any particular reference to the body-mind, although its still associated with it practically.
There are many such advocates. I’ve spoken about Krishnamurti from time to time, he’s just one. There are many such people these days. They have in common, call to people to do something like the exercise…logical …exercise of logic recommended in the Advaitic talking school. They call upon them to identify with Consciousness, presently, to believe and affirm that the essence of the being, the consciousness behind thoughts and actions is presently and always already identical to Brahman or the Transcendental Condition. Therefore merely by involving yourself in this kind of analytical exercise, you can presume that you are enlightened, or that you have achieved Jnana. That’s not at all true. The same kinds of advocates are also busy telling people that there is no real purpose for a Spiritual Master, except to bind yourself to another ego and so on.
The reason they can so easily dismiss the Spiritual Master is because they have already dismissed the whole process of spiritual practice. And all that’s necessary for them is this kind of analytical effort of identifying with Consciousness. It is true that our own consciousness, that which is at the root of attention is ultimately, even inherently identical to the Transcendental Being. But must be Realized to be so. And it cannot be realized to be so until energy and attention are free for that most profound and radical intuition. Its not merely factually so. Its not factually so that Atman and Paramatman or Brahman are identical. Its not factual so that Nirvana and samsara are the same. By definition these are opposites. Nirvana and samsara are actual or an absolute opposites of one another. That’s how the two terms arose in traditions. They indicate two entirely different states of existence, one Transcendental and the other conditional.
Well, in the Buddhist tradition, this formula developed eventually, that states that Nirvana and samsara are the same. Well, this is a confession of Adepts. This is a confession of Realization. In the case of Realization it is true. In some profound paradoxical sense. But it is not factually true. Its true only in the case of Realization.
Likewise in the Advaitic tradition, in many places in the Hindu tradition, we hear the proclamation that Atman and Paramatman, or Atman and Brahman are identical. This is not factually true in the original development of these terms. They were meant to indicate complete opposites. They are Realized to be true by Adepts. Or the equation is Realized to be true, or the Truth in the case of an Adept. But not otherwise. The equation is not factually true, its only true by virtue of Realization. So you cannot merely, by inverting upon the self essence, identify with the Transcendental Being. To invert upon the self essence is merely to continue the act of Narcissus. It is to meditate upon the self-essence, the essence of the ego, the root consciousness of the ego. Until the ego is transcended, that’s all that’s at the base of the “I” thought.
We may have some sense, some intuition of that which goes beyond the limit of self-contracted consciousness, but we cannot realize our identity with it, apart from the fullest development of spiritual practice. In fact, therefore, it is a heresy to claim that Atman and Paramatman are the same, or that Atman and Brahman are the same, until you have Realized it. It is a heresy to declare that Nirvana and samsara are the same. Its a ridiculous claim except in the case of Realization.
Spiritual understanding in our discussion is not to be equated with a kind of talking school conceits, or the presumptions of the ego, that want to be realized immediately without having to go through the hard school of purification, liberation, and awakening. Spiritual understanding involves the transcendence of the ego, or conditional attention and this develops by stages–it has a number of forms. From the beginning it may simply have the form of prayer. It may become some form of enquiry or it may take on more esoteric practices.
The reason for this is that the ego is not merely some superficial notion. The ego applies to every single aspect, every part, function, state, relation, and condition of the self. There is no part of the manifest self that is not characterized by the ego or self-contraction. It’s not merely a superficial part of you, underneath which there is this eternally free essence which you should identify with. Even that essence underneath it all, that fundamental sense of self-consciousness, is a fraction of this total character that is the ego or seperate self. This total character must be understood and transcended. In every feature, function, part, relation, state – waking, dreaming, and sleeping – this consciousness that is identified with in the talking school is nothing but the bare consciousness of the waking state, or attention apart from objects. It is not in any sense a practice of enlighenment or enlighened understanding; it is simply egoic consciousness. That egoic consciousness in all of its forms must be transcended for any spiritual understanding to awaken.
Ramana Maharshi – S.S. Cohen
The Spiritual path is not merely some kind of self generated discipline, some effort made by the ego, that ultimately winds up being Enlightenment. Spiritual understanding and the spiritual path is one of transcendence, transcendence of the ego, not the way of the efforts of the ego. Spiritual practice is the submission of the ego to that which transcends it. It is not supression of the ego or ignoring it. It is understanding it’s false and fearful orign.
It is also about the individual entering into understanding with his or her own help. It is that help or understanding that permits the spiritual path to be fruitful. Otherwise it’s about self generated efforts.
It is necessary for the individual who enters into a spiritual path to understand how that great relationship works.
Real spiritual understanding requires a practice and discipline and is a hard school, well as being a life of Grace, a life in which there is Great Help. This Help transcends the limits that you would bring to practice ordinarily, it is also a hard school or a difficult affair. it requires great responsibility, great attention for this exercise. But if you enter into it truly and seriously, then all of these kinds of changes or effects that are generated over time, will amount to a purification of attention from its habits, on every level, in every state, in all relations, under all conditions, in every function. Psycho-physical equanimity, responsibility for energy and attention, will be the result of that. And on the basis of such equanimity, there will be free energy and attention, energy free of this ego-bond, energy free of the character of the false identication of the separate one. That free energy and attention is the ultimate arms or means at the level of the individual whereby Spiritual understanding can be fulfilled. Only when energy and attention are literally free from the ego illusion and bind at every level can this process of awakening can be fulfilled.
In the traditions there is a call that “You are That” which is a summary of enlightenment. It is not a call that can be fulfilled instantly by anyone who hears it. You can sympathize with it to the degree that you can enjoy a level of self understanding and begin some form of practice, but you cannot fulfill it perfectly because energy and attention are not free, because the Atman cannot be equated with Paramatman or Brahman, it is too self involved. It is contracted upon itself. It doesn’t enjoy the freedom where by it may enter into the native equation of individual consciousness and Transcendental Consciousness. For this understanding to occur you must endure the process, you must go through the hard school of purification, rebalancing, whereby energy and attention are set free of the ego knot.
As I have always indicated, the fulfillment of the Conscious Process requires, as a matter of preparation, the significant development of truly free energy and attention. This means that, for the Conscious Process to fulfill itself in the terms I quoted earlier from The Liberator, energy and attention must be truly and stably free from bondage to the self-contraction in every kind of functional and relational context.
Many spiritual paths today are reduced to a kind of “talking school”. Many people read and even write books and give lectures about the primacy and freedom of consciousness, as if they could, merely by analyzing consciousness out from the mass of thinking, knowing, and experiencing, achieve the incomparable State of “Jnana,” Enlightenment, or Transcendental Realization. But all such talk is the mediocre chat of the waking mind. In order to Realize the Transcendental Truth that Is Consciousness, the entire process of attention must be liberated from functional bondage to the states and functions and emotions and thoughts and relations of the egoic or self-contracted body-mind.
Therefore, I call you not only to consider my Arguments and understand, but to practice that consideration in the form of real disciplines that restore psycho-physical equanimity and liberate energy and attention for the ultimate affair of radical intuition.
The practices of conductivity and the Conscious Process are the responsibility of each individual devotee. But the Way is not merely a matter of self-generating these disciplines. The Way that I Teach (in both its preparatory and mature or ultimate forms) is the Way of “Satsang,” or Transcendental Spiritual Communion with the Adept in God (or Reality). The practices of conductivity and the Conscious Process are simply the means whereby individuals enter into that Communion moment to moment. The Adept Spiritual Master provides the Ultimate Means whereby the practices of conductivity and the Conscious Process become fruitful.
It is in the “talking school” of heady non practitioners (or self-contained egos) that we hear so much nonsense about the non-necessity of a Spiritual Master. Of course, the Adept is of no use (except perhaps to write books to feed the ego minds) for those who are self-bound and not interested in the real fulfillment of the Great Way. And there are also many kinds of ego-based, childish, adolescent, merely cultic, and false kinds of approach or attachment to the Adept–and I criticize those inappropriate approaches and attachments more than any of those who merely damn and anathematize the Great Relationship between the devotee and the Adept Spiritual Master. But when the Way is fully understood, valued, and practiced, then-and only then–the Great Relationship is seen to be the Primary Principle of the Way itself.
The Adept Spiritual Master is not merely an independent Realizer of the Truth. The true Adept is a “Siddha,” or a Living Agent of Help and Awakening. Thus, beyond the Work of Communicating the Arguments of the Way, the Adept is Present to Transmit the Power of Awakening.
I mention him at the end of this essay, “The mere “I” though is not now an indicator of the Great One”. The “I” is Narcissus, more than a thought, but a profoundly complex pattern of destiny. Now perhaps this would remind you of the teaching of Ramana Maharshi, who recommended to people, simply to concentrate on the “I” thought and observe and intuit the consciousness, or the condition in which that is arising. Well, for him, this made complete sense. For him the whole force of egoity, the whole force of the “I” had been transcended. And from the Advaitic point of view, the “I” thought is a pointer to the Atman, which is ultimately identical to the Paramatman, or Brahman.
In the case of lesser teachers, the recommendation to concentrate upon the source of the “I” thought would be considered to be a perfectly and sufficient recommendation, sufficient for instant enlightenment, Maharshi was not a fool, you see. He knew full well that the ordinary individual, concentrating on the “I” thought, feeling into, or intuiting its source, was still ego bound. So therefore he presumed that this method was a sadhana, a lifetime practice, that would gradually dissolve the force of the ego. In other words he didn’t belong to the talking school. He didn’t mean to concentrate on the “I” thought, see that consciousness underneath that and realize that’s Atman, that’s Puja Brahman, that’s Brahman and now you’re enlightened, now go and be enlightened, you see. No. That wasn’t his sense of teaching. But rather he followed the traditional Advaitic approach in the general structuring of his philosophy. He knew full well that the ego is a great force, and that the “I” is the ego.
But from his Advaitic point of view, he thought a good technique for people, instead of fulfilling the motivations of the ego, the motivations of the “I”, to constantly fall back from the activity, and rest in the Atman. Doing this over time, would purify the “I”, undermine the ego, dissolve the ego. And eventually this meditation would become self-realization. So it is implicit in his teaching that the ego must be transcended. He’s not a representative of the talking school.
Also you should understand the Maharshi did not presume the role of a teacher. People asked him what he had realized, and what was it all about, and how could they realize it and so forth. And he spoke in the terms he did. He didn’t elaborate beyond that, all of the kinds of associated means and processes and so on, which would have to be communicated to people, if your going to presume the role of a Siddha in their company, or counteract a total teaching for their benefit.
Now I’m aware of the fundamental truth associated with Advaitism, and the teaching of Ramana Maharshi. I’m also aware of the implicit realities that are behind this Advaitic recommendation. Those implicit realities or realities of the ego, are there to be undone, there to be overcome. They can’t be overlooked. You cannot reduce the Advaitic recommendation to the academic or logical exercise of the talking school. And therefore I have elaborated a complete teaching, that involves all of the kinds of disciplines that must necessarily be associated with life and practice if the ego, the force of “I”, the force of Narcissus is to be transcended. And I have established this practice in my company, and have accepted the role of the Siddha in your company. So this produces a much more elaborate culture of practice that is suggested in Mararashi’s company, and is altogether outside the kind of mediocrity that belongs to the talking school.
But to consider further the implications of this notion that you can trace the “I” thought back to its source – in the case of the beginner, the ego-bound individual, as I’ve said here, the “I” thought is not merely a thought. It is the name for a whole complex of existence. The “I” thought exists only in the plane of waking consciousness. What about the rest of it? It exists subconscious, unconscious, walking, dreaming and sleeping, bodily, emotionally, and so on.
Merely to trace the “I” thought and feel the consciousness behind it, is not to be self-realized, transcendentally self-realized it is perhaps in Advaitic terms, to begin a kind of exercise that should be associated with a whole life of disciplines and profound practice, in which everything that is “I” would be transcended, and the Atman would cease to be merely this individuated consciousness.
What you must enter into through this conscious process, is not merely the consciousness behind thought. That is simply attention. And attention is the fundamental, or ground mechanism of Narcissus or the ego, as it says at the beginning of this essay, quoting from The Liberator: “Be Consciousness as the feeling of Being, and Realize that it is Radiant Happiness.” This ultimate intuition breaks beyond the framework of manifest consciousness. It breaks beyond the framework of attention, mere attention. It is associated with the most profound intuition. It is not like a thought in any sense then. And it is not like attention standing off here, next to objects, viewing whatever may seem to be arising, witnessing whatever may seem to be arising. It is more to be likened to feeling. It is formless, centerless. It is not something separate, or separable from objects. It is not interior. It is not self-conscious in the conventional sense. What’s behind the “I” thought is merely attention. What must be realized that is far beyond the “I”, is the feeling or Condition of Being.
Transcendental Consciousness is the consciousness of this feeling of Being, mere Being, Being without qualification. The Being that is the Condition, not only of the conscious self, but of all of its objects, all of nature. When we’ve entered into that condition of Being, when our consciousness is that fullness of being, then we realize that it is Happiness, Self-Radiant Love-Bliss. It is the Substance of the universe. It is That to which Maharshi points in his considerations. It is That to which the Advaitic tradition ultimately points. It is That to which the Buddhist tradition points. In fact, it is That toward which all traditions are pointing. But apart from the Realization of it, all kinds of lesser conceptions and perceptions and senses of it may substitute for enlightenment.
And so you cannot take heaven by storm. There is no method of immediate self-analysis that is equivalent to Enlightenment. Self-observation, self-knowing, self-transcendence is a lifelong exercise. It never comes to an end. It is always going on, always developing, there’s nothing instant about it.
The ego that is behind the “I” thought. Its not the Transcendental Self. The Self is Realized.
Maharshi really enquired of everyone, “Who, who, who, who?” Well, he said yes, “concentrate on the ‘I’ thought. Well, who is aware of the ‘I’ thought?” Well, its the ego that’s aware of the “I” thought. Its the individual consciousness. That’s not the end of it. He would again say: “Who? Find out who.” Well; if you persist in that, that becomes a whole life of discipline. It even becomes the life of submission to the influence of the Adept, quite naturally, quite spontaneously.
And that in fact is what occurred in the case of his true devotees. And that is a form of the ultimate question. Who is it ultimately that you are? Who are you arising within? In whom is all of this arising, you see. But its not a question with an immediate answer. Its not really a problem to find this out. It is a process. It is found out through a process of self-transcendence. His questions are indicators of it. They are queries to help people become oriented toward the profundity of self-transcendence. And he had his peculiar way of doing these things. And as I said, did not presume the role of the teacher in the fullest sense, did not feel obliged to communicate a total teaching.
He appeared within the context of traditional Indian society. For those who weren’t ready to be awakened very directly in his company, he presumed they would just go elsewhere, they’d find countless numbers of teachings, and teachers and means and so forth. He was simply certain that ultimately, all these ways would fulfill themselves in Transcendental Self-Realization. So his considerations are limited to this fundamental query, this fundamental suggestion that what you must discover is the Condition in which the self is arising. But to discover that condition, you must transcend the self, not merely ask yourself a question, not merely invert upon attention itself, because attention is the ego. The “I” thought like any other thought arises to the ego. The ego is what must be transcended. Merely to put attention on the consciousness in which the “I” thought is arising, is not to realize the Transcendental Being. It is to make a gesture toward realization. If you made that gesture those means, ultimately you would break through the egoic limit, the illusion that’s associated with attention. That is a profound complete, if if occupied the whole of your life, then by all of process. Now we do not … we consider the same truth, this Realization, we do not consider it in the context of a traditional society, with a long history of involvement with the quest for Transcendental Realization.
And I have accepted the role of Teacher, the role of the Siddha in the company of devotees. So I have assumed the obligation to communicate the Way fully, and to communicate its in the company of those who will practice it, you see. So there is a difference between my historical role and the historical role of Maharshi and many others, as there was a difference between Maharshi and his historical role and all kinds of other teachers.
The same ultimate truth is realized by all free Adepts, and they communicate it in a particular fashion in their time and place. Some aren’t very communicative, some communicate in part only, some assume the role of the Adept or Siddha in relation to devotees, and some do not. Some function as the Siddha without accepting the role of the Siddha. They are the Siddha by virtue of Realization, and for those who somehow or other develop a real practice, they make use of that though the Adept assumes no personal responsibility. In your case there’s no ambiguity about it however. I make this Teaching plain, I’ve communicated all the details of its practice, I accept this role in relationship to you, I’ve explained to you all of the aspects of the process that takes place in my company, and therefore its up to you, without any ambiguity, to practice it as you will. If you will, then the kind of process that I’ve just described in this essay, will develop in your case, and you will see all the signs of it. If you will not take it on, in the forms indicated in this essay and elsewhere, then you may in some fashion be attached to this Institution and this community, even have some familiarity with me, but this does not necessarily mean that the process described here will take place. The process required your responsibility, for hearing and developing the means of practice, which constantly, moment to moment bring you into the sphere of my Influence. And you must maintain that responsibility always, not merely occasionally when I happen to be sitting with you, or when you happen to be in my company, or when your in meditation or when you feel good, or when you feel bad, but always you must develop the full force of this profound practice.
A fundamental aspect of the Way is the progressive recognition of the Spiritual Master. In other words entering into that Company, the sphere of the Spiritual Master’s Influence more and more profoundly. By entering into more and more profound levels of recognition of the Spiritual Master, beginning with obvious acknowledgment of the Spiritual Master, as a Living Master, but then going on to recognize and locate the Spiritual Master as Siddha, as Siddhi, as that Influence, which is directly present to every practicing devotee, in every moment, not merely in occasions of being in the Spiritual master’s human company, or being in meditation, of being in an empowered place, or being in the community and so on, but always. Those who truly practice begin to locate and recognize and acknowledge this Influence in every moment of life and meditation. it is always available. It is a matter of turning to it, of acknowledging it, recognizing it, locating it, making your practice into communion with that Influence. Therefore allowing that Influence to transform the conditions of existence that are arising from hour to hour, moment to moment, not only in meditation, but in daily life. In daily life all kinds of changes occur, all kinds of moods, all kinds of circumstances, physical, emotional and mental states, relations, changes in relations and so forth. Those are just as much within the sphere of Transcendental Influence, as any of the activities that occur in the subjective realm of meditation. Therefore these also, you will discover, remarkably, are constantly being changed, in various ways by this influence.
The Influence, or Siddhi that you have entered into is the Power and Being in which all of nature is arising. And therefore it has its effect on all of the apparently objective conditions of your existence, just as it has an effect upon the subjective conditions. So in daily life, you notice this influence making changes, if your sensitive and really practicing in this company, in both the subjective and objective levels of your existence. In meditation, you notice this influence more in terms of the subjective changes and the effects this Influence has on you immediate personal experience, you physical, emotional, mental states, and those kinds of states that may arise in meditation.
You should also begin to notice how this Influence is operative beyond the waking state, in dreams, in sleeping, in every moment of existence. There is a tradition in which Adepts have asked devotees, usually advanced devotees, to to to sleep at night, with the intention of entering into the Spiritual Master’s company. Sometimes this instruction is given in very specific detail, to go to sleep with the intention in the astral or dream form, to go to a specific location, usually the Communion Hall, or the place of residence of the Spiritual Master, with full visual expression and so on, during the dreaming time. Also with the intention in the sleep state, to be entered into communion with the Transcendental Condition and presence of the Spiritual Master, or the Consciousness, or Being that is the Adept and the Divine.
Well, devotees over the years, frequently report random, unintentional experiences of this kind. Similar experiences in fact occur even during waking hours, various kinds of visionary experiences, of seeing me in the meditation hall, or having some vision of me and so forth, in a moment of activity. These are reported by people. they also report all kinds of extraordinary dreams. Now these dreams in general do not have anything to do with me in the sense that I am personally, at the level of my human mind and so on, aware that you are having these dreams, although I very often am aware of them. But the fact that somebody has a dream in which I appear to them, does not necessarily mean that I would be able to tell them the next day that I was aware of it. I may or may not be aware of it. Or I may be aware of it in a difference form. Or I may be aware of it in the same form. But most of the time I wouldn’t be aware of it, there would be no reflection in my waking mind of it. But this does not mean that the experience if false. It can be falsified by the individual who just uses it for his own self-glamouriation, to console him or herself so they can feel they’re had some profound experience. But generally the essential content of such dreams is a feeling of entering into this communion, and something about the meaning of the dream, will generally have some pertinence, some significance that is real and appropriate enough, worth remembering, worth allowing to have some effect on you whenever it will.
Therefore since this possibility exists, some people might try this. You should feel free to try this. These gatherings we have on celebration occasions are something like this. People gather in Centers and various parts of the world, at the same time I’m sitting here with you all. And they prepare themselves through the devotional occasion, and use my photograph as a way of associating with me. They are literally tuning into me, allowing themselves to enter into the sphere of my Influence, personally. During meditation, or perhaps in dreams, or some other visions afterwards, they may have some sense of coming to some place where I’m sitting with them and so forth. During that time of meditation, they may have visions of it, of my being in the room with them, or them being in a room some place or other with me.
In other words the psyche may function automatically to create some sort of association with me that’s tangible. Whether or not that tangible association has anything directly to do with my actual physical location or not. It is simply a, it is simply something that adds a dimension to the whole force of their alignment to me.