The Knee of Listening – Chapter 11


The Life and Understanding


Franklin Jones

Copyright 1971 By Franklin Jones

All rights reserved

Table of Contents


Chapter 11: The Abandonment of Effort in India

The crisis of understanding that overcame me in seminary was yet an incomplete reversal of my life. It marked only the beginning of my independence. I had passed through fear, terror and death, and what was beyond them stood out as a primary sense that I called “relationship.”

In childhood I was centered in the “bright,” the illumined pathos of living being in the face of conflict and death. But in time I became serious with death and saw the contradictions in myself and all life. Then in college I was drawn up again into the truth. And I saw that I was already free, never dying or born to die. But this knowledge seemed dependent on some kind of work in consciousness wherein the internal pattern of contradictions moving as the mind was dissolved in conscious knowledge.

Thus, I began the long time of effort that culminated in my meeting and work with Rudi. But all that effort brought me lately to another crisis in understanding. And thus in seminary I was brought to recognize something more fundamental than seeking and effort. I saw that it was not a matter of any work in consciousness or life, but of somehow constantly abiding in what is always already real. I called that reality “relationship.”

From that time I was moved to pursue this truth in a, totally new way. As a result of the experience of “death in seminary I saw that my entire life, even my spiritual effort, was only a complex adventure of avoidance, the avoidance of primary, radical relationship as the always present form of reality.

It seemed to me then that real life was a matter of constantly realizing relationship as the radical category or form of life on every level. Thus, it no longer was a matter of effort and seeking but of maintaining this true understanding under all conditions.

Everyone, including my friends in the religious community and even Rudi, tended to interpret my seminary experience negatively. In time, I realized that I had approached these people as if my experience had posed a problem for me, whereas in fact it had removed the problem and every sense of dilemma. I saw that these people and my own efforts were constantly recreating the sense of dilemma and turning life into an effort to overcome some conceived obstacle. I wanted my experience to be acknowledged as the sublime truth it was. I wanted my “madness” to be communicated and accepted as our real state. But everyone was offended by my radical, impulsive energy.

Thus, after several months in which I tried to find a way to fit myself into some form of religious career, and to maintain my work with Rudi on some kind of basis suitable to us both, I finally decided to abandon my old ways. I stopped trying to communicate my experience and my understanding. I began to try and live on its basis.

I left the Orthodox seminary. Even Rudi saw that I would probably be unable to turn my work there to some practical value. I continued to go to Rudi’s classes, but I set about creating my life in a new way.

Rudi sensed that I was departing from the yoga of work and surrender, but there was no conversation between us that indicated any radical disagreement. I continued as before, but now I proceeded with a sense of ease, of prior fulfilment, free of the need to strive for any kind of overwhelming goal.

I had seen the futility of effort. I saw that it was only another form of avoidance, just like the very patterns I was always trying to surrender. The effort of work and surrender had proven to me the impossibility and fruitlessness of that whole path. The entire basis of struggle by which I had guided myself since college fell away in a graceful calm.

I found work in a bookstore. And I simply made my living in an effortless way. I enjoyed the freedom of simple ability. I was merely present. There was no problem.

One day I was sitting with Rudi in the store. I found a couple of publications from the Ashram of his Guru, Baba Muktananda, in India. At first Rudi seemed reluctant to let me read them. He made fun of the Indian way of teaching, saying that it was very traditional and that one really needed to work very hard to get anything from his teacher.

But I managed to read the little pamphlets while Rudi busied himself with his customers. The writings were little compendiums of Baba’s teaching. As I read them, I began to discover parallels to my new unburdened sense of spiritual life.

Baba said that spiritual life was not a matter of effort on the part of the disciple. It was a matter of the Guru’ grace, his free gift. The disciple needed only to come to the Guru and enjoy his grace. It was as easy as flowers in sunlight. He said that once the disciple received the Guru’s grace the various phenomena of spiritual experience would come automatically. Meditation and purification would occur naturally, without effort. Indeed, the attitude of effort was an obstacle to the disciple’s progress.

I looked at Baba’s picture on the wall, and that of Swami Nityananda, his Guru. I began to feel that these were in fact the sources of spiritual growth and wisdom to which my efforts had drawn me when I first came to Rudi. It appeared as though Rudi had been given me as a means of purifying me from my own sense of seeking and effort. Rudi’s way had duplicated my own path until such a time as I could despair of it and so become available to the graceful truth.

When I got up to leave I was filled with a determination to go to India myself. During the next few weeks I managed to secure a position with Pan American Airways. This seemed to me an ideal opportunity for travel that would make it possible for me to go to India.

Shortly after the beginning of the year, in 1968, I was told that I would be able to make use of a two day earned vacation and a 90% discount in air fare. If I could manage to trade days off with some fellow employees I could stretch that leave into six days. I immediately arranged for my vacation to fall in late March and the beginning of April, and I began to make arrangements for Nina and me to go to India.

I was determined in this course, although I knew that it would probably mean a break with Rudi. I told him my plan, and he reluctantly gave me the address of Baba’s Ashram. I continued to try and maintain my relationship with him, but an obvious distance had grown between us that neither of us was willing to communicate. I loved Rudi dearly, and I will be forever grateful for his help. He remains one of the major influences in my life. But I was about to pass into a fulness of my own that demanded a rather painful separation. The time had come for me to strike my teacher and take my in, the way a boy takes his manhood from his father.

The weeks passed. The task of arranging for the trip seemed filled with endless obstacles. But I managed to create a schedule of flights that would enable us to go to India and return in a little more than six days. We would return only a day later than I was allowed, and this I felt would not be so long that I would be likely to lose my job.

I wrote to Baba and received a letter from his secretary, Amma. Our visit would be welcomed, although they would prefer us to come for a longer time and at a period in the year when the weather around Bombay was not so hot.

I wrote them that the period of our visit was fixed by my employers. I told Baba that I believed fully in his grace I recalled the story of an Indian prince who once ordered a saint to bring him to the full realization of truth in the time it took him to place his foot in the stirrup and swing his leg over the saddle of his horse. The prince became enlightened the instant he stepped into the stirrup, and he fell to the ground to kiss the feet of the saint.

I made it clear to Baba that I was coming to receive everything he had to give me. I would only have four days at the Ashram, and I didn’t know when I would be able to return again. I humbly offered these conditions as a limitation that I could not prevent, and asked Baba to bless me with everything that was necessary for me to enjoy the perfect knowledge of reality.

I also wrote to him about my life, my experiences in childhood and college, my work with Rudi, and the incomparable awareness that now resided in me since my experience in seminary.

I told him how I had been led to Rudi and then at last to the Ashram, and how I felt that he was the ultimate source of grace to which I seemed to be moving all my life. I also asked his blessing for our safe arrival. And so we prepared for the adventure that seemed to promise a perfect gift of truth.

We flew to Bombay via London and Beirut, and arrived on April 2, 1968. We landed in Bombay about 4 a.m. and were mot by Peter bias, an Indian devotee of Baba, a former and sometimes Catholic and alcoholic. He was to be our interpreter and the communicator of the Indian form of spiritual gossip during our first couple of days at the Ashram. He arranged for a private car, and we set out on a two or three hour drive toward Ganeshpuri, the home of Baba’s Ashram.

Peter was a very animated and nervous presence. He announced himself clearly as one of Rudi’s antagonists. As we drove, ho kept testing our allegiances, as if to make sure we were there as pristine devotees of Baba and not somehow under the control or Rudi’s brand of yoga. I assured him we were there totally under our own power an felt drawn solely to Baba’s grace.

The Indian towns and countryside were a revelation to me. As the morning dampness and fog lifted, a primitive world appeared, filled with ancient poverty and the temples of an equally ancient spirituality. There was a mysterious air all around, and everywhere there seemed a secret presence pointing me to an awesome and absolute deity.

Peter surrounded us with the drama of his Guru and compulsively unraveled the tales of miracles that seemed to await us in Ganeshpuri. Everything pointed to a magic fact. I expected to walk into a world of sudden perfection, where the images of miraculous living stood around in the room as obvious as the hard-edged architecture of New York.

When we drove up to the door of the Ashram I was excited beyond words. Peter led us into a small room where Indian men and women of various degrees of obvious wealth or poverty sat in separate groups on the floor. Sitting in a throne of cushions, wrapped below the waist in a light saffron cloth, was Baba.

Something was said to him in Hindi as we entered. He made an energetic greeting of “Ah” and “Hm,” and we bowed at his feet. He welcomed us through Peter, who translated his remarks rapidly. Baba spoke no English. We were told to rest and refresh ourselves and come to sit with him in the early afternoon.

When we returned to the hall in the afternoon Baba was seated again in his usual place. I sat in the lotus posture on the floor with the men, directly in front of Baba. Nina sat to the side with the women. At first there was a brief conversation about our trip, and then we got down to business.

I felt my letters were a sufficient introduction to my past and my purpose. The limitation of speaking through an interpreter seemed to make lengthy conversation more of a burden than an instrument for instant communication. And so, after a few brief remarks about how I had studied with Rudi and come to feel that true realization could not be accomplished through effort but depended entirely on the grace of a true Guru, I asked Baba to teach me the truths of spiritual life.

He began a long and somewhat pedantic monologue on the truth of Advaita Vedanta. “You are not the one who wakes or sleeps or dreams. You are the Witness to all of these states.”

He seemed to make a big point about how pleased he was that I could sit comfortably before him in the lotus posture. Firm posture is the beginning of the true spiritual attitude, he said.

Then he proceeded to make a long discourse on Vedanta, Asana, or posture, and Ashtanga Yoga, the eight-fold path of Patanjali. Actually I could only sit comfortably in the lotus position for a short while, but he had made such a point of it that I felt I must try and appear as comfortable as possible.

As he talked, or even while he sat in silence and listened to people chant the Bhagavad Gita or the ancient Vedic hymns, he was a constantly fascinating field of movement. His hands constantly moved about him, either communicating with a gesture, touching his face, or adjusting the beads around his neck. His hands and his features were a perpetual motion, as if his very cells were pulsing with an absolute energy.

During our first meetings he made no attempt to teach me how to meditate or respond to his Presence. And so, while I sat with him, I began to make an effort to surrender and open to him deeply, the habitual exercise I had learned with Rudi. His words seemed to me Quite formal and not particularly created for my benefit. My questions and my simple presence seemed only to be an occasion for him to speak to everyone about the general topics of Indian spirituality.

As the first afternoon passed, many people came and money, fruit or flowers. Soon I began to feel quite comfortable. I was glad when there seemed no need for me to ask questions or appear particularly visible.

I simply worked at the spiritual exercise I had learned, and the Ashram routine proceeded around me automatically. Baba’s discourses contained nothing new. It was the same familiar teaching from the books on Vedanta and yoga. And I was a little disappointed that he made no attempt to teach me anything on a verbal level that would change or confirm my state of mind.

But, after all, I had come for miracles, not discussion. I felt there must be something beneath the outward formality of the Guru and his Ashram that would turn my life around. Then, as I became more concentrated and attuned to the internal mechanisms that I had come to know through the work of surrender and the Force, I felt a new and more powerful Presence. I felt the same Force or Shakti that I had experienced with Rudi, but it seemed magnified into an almost muscular power.

After about an hour or so Baba and his Indian devotees began to chant the Bhagavad Gita, as was the custom every afternoon. While I sat and observed this ritual, my whole body began to swell up with an incredible fulness. Baba sensed what was happening to me, and he would often gesture to me with his eyes or make his characteristic “Hm” sound of approval.

As the chanting continued, the Shakti began to create violent movements in my body. These were the “kriyas,” the purifying activity of the Shakti as it moves through the various nerve channels and the physical form. My back began to move around involuntarily in jolts, the way I had seen it affect others in Rudi’s class. And my head began to jerk and revolve rapidly.

I felt a powerful fulness, and my mind and my entire being were filled by a wonderful bliss. It was an experience to which I had become accustomed with Rudi, but now it was much stronger, undeniable, and it seemed to be approaching a violent state beyond my control, so that I would often fall over backwards into the wall or sideways to the floor.

Even after the chanting was finished and Baba began to carry on conversations with his visitors, these movements and this bliss continued. Finally, Baba said to me, “Now I’ve got you.” He smiled, and left the room.

These movements increased and became my constant occupation during the few days of our visit. Only one or two others seemed to be experiencing similar effects, but I assumed mine was a common experience. Everyone seemed pleased that I was experiencing Baba’s grace, and it seemed particularly good to them because I was a Westerner.

Our days were spent sitting with Baba during these sessions of chanting and conversation in the morning and afternoon. We would also get up about 5 a.m. and meditate in the hall outside Baba’s room. He would walk around in the dark with a flashlight and spend a few moments in front of each of us watching our meditation.

We were also allowed to sit with him while he rested on the Ashram grounds after lunch. We would sit around him on the ground outside the cowshed and ask him questions while he petted the young calves.

Nina’s experience has always been much quieter than my own. Here, as before, she experienced a graceful calmness. Baba gave her a “sari” to wear, and he would often gift her with a flower or a fruit that he had blessed with his Shakti. And we would hear him answer questions about meditation, vegetarian diet, or the process of initiation by the Guru’s touch or thought called “Shaktipat.”

The “kriyas” became so strong in me that Baba began to call me “Kriyananda,” one whose bliss is in the purifying movement of the Divine Power. One morning I was sitting outside the Ashram office. Baba was inside discussing some Ashram business with a devotee. I always tried to sit near him wherever he went so that I could see him and meditate where he could see me.

On this occasion I was sitting in meditation, watching Baba’s form. Suddenly, he jumped out of his chair and rushed toward me, shouting the name “Kriyananda!” And he pressed his hand to my head, with one finger hard against my left eye. I fell into a swoon of bliss. The violent kriyas stopped, and I sat in a trance, still fully aware of what was going on around me. While everyone stood around and watched me, my hands raised up and performed mudras, the hand poses that you see in Indian dance and the statues of Buddhas.

All of this was quite remarkable, except I was experiencing an inner state that was not calm but more and more exhausting. I seemed to be involved in a kind of super effort of internal work of the same kind I had known with Rudi. The more deeply I surrendered the more these movements seemed to take hold of me. But my experience also seemed to depend on this great effort. I was getting very tired and disturbed by the pressure of this work, and I wondered how to recapture the sense of ease and grace that had motivated me to India.

I asked Baba about meditation. He told me that it should be a mere act of witnessing, not an effort. I should only sit calmly and observe the working of the Shakti in myself.

I should relax, and with each cycle of breath recite the mantra So-Ham (I am He, I am the Divine or the Guru), or the primary sound “Aum.”

Peter also told me about the manner of meditation Baba traditionally recommended. He said it was not like Rudi’s work at all. The Shakti didn’t come out of the teacher’s eyes and descend into the body by the work of surrender before it rose up the spine. The Guru awakened it and it rose by itself from the base of the spine toward the head. Then the various kriyas and visions should come quite naturally, while we remained in a state of calm witnessing.

This was quite a new idea of meditation for me. It seemed right, and it certainly corresponded to my new intuition of how it should be, but I had grown accustomed by years of effort to the forceful work of surrender. An equally great effort seemed required in order simply to allow the Shakti, the Divine Power, to do the work. Thus, no matter how hard I tried, I seemed unable to break the old habit of meditation. I even felt afraid that if I dropped the habit of effort the movements and experiences would cease. Indeed, when I finally managed simply to relax in Baba’s presence, I merely settled into ease and nothing peculiar happened.

The four days of our visit quickly neared an end. The new idea of meditation and Baba’s teaching of Vedanta seemed to be the limit of what I was to receive. When the last day arrived I was somewhat desperate. I had come for more than this. I had come for everything.

Baba no longer called me “Kriyananda.” And it seemed that I had only accomplished a stronger version of the same experience I had with Rudi, only at last to see it fall away as well. I was disappointed, and when I sat with Baba in the morning I did little more than sit. I had consigned myself to mere witnessing, and the movements ceased. It seemed that I was only caught up in the Ashram chit-chat. But I could not imagine that Baba would let me come all this way only to leave with a little instruction. I was still in a state of confusion about the way of effort and its effects, and the seemingly arid and academic preaching of truth and meditation that Baba offered.

We took lunch, and afterwards I went to our room to get my hat. The sun was violently hot, and I intended to spend my last couple of hours walking around the Ashram grounds. When I got to the room I felt a profound urge to lie down and rest. I thought I should just lie down for a few moments, but I didn’t want to fall asleep and waste my last precious hours.

As soon as I lay down, I passed into a sleep-like trance. I lost all bodily consciousness and every sense of my mind and personality. But there was also a profound state of consciousness that was absolutely calm, uncontained, and free. I felt as though I existed only as consciousness itself. There was no other experience, no thought, feeling or perception. perception. Except that I seemed to exist as infinity, and awareness was concentrated above, at some unfathomable point beyond space and yet above me. As I concentrated in that “point” I felt an infinite form of bliss, an absolute pleasure of fulness and brilliance that completely absorbed my being.

Then I seemed to pass from this incomparable state into forms of consciousness that involved thought or perception. I seemed to have visions of levels of being beyond the human, and I witnessed what appeared to be other Worlds or realms of conscious being that pertained to levels of mind beyond our ordinary life.

Then I heard a loud, roaring sound that at first seemed to surround me like a great room. I awakened to bodily consciousness. The sound was my own breathing as it rushed through my lungs and throat. But I did not perceive these things from within my body. I was fully aware as a consciousness that transcended all form and which at best surrounded and breathed my body.

Just then, Nina entered the room, and with a sudden jolt I resumed my ordinary awareness, as if contained within the body. I have no idea how long this experience had lasted, but it was now time to pack and prepare to leave. I didn’t speak to Nina, but tried to remain concentrated in what remained of this unusual experience.

As I went about preparing to leave and walked from our bungalow to the hall where Baba sat, I began to understand the nature of my experience. What Baba had communicated to me in the dry discourses of our afternoons had been delivered to me as living truth. I had awakened as the Self, the Witness, the ultimate Reality of the ancient Scriptures!

Whereas we ordinarily remain conscious as the capsule entity contained in the body, I had awakened as the one who truly is the life and consciousness of the body and all things I had seen consciousness move from that absolute and most prior state down through the levels of being toward bodily consciousness. I had seen bodily consciousness from the point of view of the Self, Siva, or Siva-Shakti, the universal Being that lives all things. Ordinarily we identify with the point of view of bodily consciousness and either strive to survive as that dying entity in the face of all obstacles or else try by spiritual effort to attain the realization of Self or Divine Consciousness. But I awakened as that Self, and everything is always and already being “lived.”

Every sense of limitation and false self-awareness had fallen away from me. What I had fathomed in the various difficult crises and illuminations of my life had been given to me whole, in a single moment of perfect experience, without limitations of any kind. I knew with absolute certainty that I was not the seeker or the one trapped in life, but everything was only being lived by the Divine Being, and I was that One.

The entire truth of all the Scriptures, East and West, had been realized in my own conscious experience. There was no longer any need for effort, for seeking. There was no primary dilemma. I had Given the Guru four days to illumine me, and he had given me everything, for free.

Like the prince from his horse, I fell at Baba’s feet and touched them with my head. He slapped my back approvingly, and we took our leave. No mention was made of my experience. We carrier our luggage to a waiting bus, and, feeling like prisoners under guard, moved out of Ganeshpuri toward America.

A man and his wife who had been staying with Baba were given charge of us for the night. We were to fly home the next morning. We traveled with the man by bus and train to a beautiful little town near Bombay called Mulund. His wife had gone on a few hours before to prepare for our arrival.

I felt so free and fulfilled, and yet sad to be leaving my Guru. It seemed as if I were being taken away from the very source of grace I had been seeking all my life. But that night, as I lay down to sleep, I experienced again the state of perfect consciousness I had known in the afternoon, pressed above into an infinite bliss, and I passed to sleep, surrendered without effort into the motherhood of my own being.

When we arrived again in New York I wrote to Baba to thank him for his grace, and I described in detail my experience that last afternoon at the Ashram. I began to live in that state continually, always aware that I was not the body or the mind, not the one who wakes or dreams or sleeps, but the Witness to all these things. It was not a mental supposition but an actual experience. It was the perfect fulfilment of what I had experienced in seminary as “unqualified relationship.”

I asked Baba to write me about the method of meditation I should adopt. All motive for effort had passed from me, and all that seemed necessary was a gentle concentration in my own Self-nature.

In my daily living I simply rested in the consciousness that everything is being lived. In meditation I passed into the fulness of an inclusive consciousness that transcended all thought and perception. There was no sense of dilemma in me. When I was not rested in my own primary nature as the Self or Reality, I would perceive that same nature as a Presence that surrounded me and all things.

When I met Rudi the signs of my transformation were obvious. I felt no need at all to engage in the form of exercise he prescribed. And when I went to his class and performed it as usual, the “kriyas” and the sense of internal conflict that motivated me in that work appeared again, and I could feel it as a familiar knot or cramp in my solar plexus. Thus, I began to see Rudi less and less, although there was no argument between us and no communication of the difference.

For the first two or three weeks after our return to New York I lived and felt and knew as the Divine itself. There was no separation in consciousness, no distracting tendencies, no impurities, and not a trace of dilemma. But, gradually, as the weeks passed, I began to witness the piecemeal return of old sensations and thoughts, then the desires that follow them, and then the actual practice of old habits. When I would sit to meditate in the effortless manner Baba had taught me I would feel these old problems. And it became a matter of conflict in me somehow to make these feelings vanish.

Life in New York seemed to require an energy of involvement that itself created conflict and the mind of effort. So that soon I began to pursue the state I had known in India. It became a problem in me to regain that state. The thing that I had known relieved all effort and amounted only to a free enjoyment of perfect knowledge. But now it began to seem unavailable, a goal requiring another kind of effort.

At first this change was only subtly perceived. I could not admit that I had lost the fundamental reality that had appeared to me at the Ashram. But, gradually, I began to realize, to my horror and despair, that the mind and all its conflict of desire was rising again, untouched by any illumination.

This became a very disturbing reversal for me. I had thought that the revolutionary awareness of my true nature would be sufficient to destroy every vestige of clinging to the habitual influences of the mind. I thought that knowledge would be purification enough, so that life need only be lived under the direct assumption of what I am in reality.

But this knowledge was not enough. The mind in conflict arose by itself and brought with it all desires and every motive for seeking. Yet, I was unwilling to adapt myself to effort and strife again. It seemed that my Ashram experience had added something vital that fulfilled and extended the awareness that grew in me during my crisis in seminary.

But now that experience, because it held before the mind a kind of proof of the ultimate nature I had sought, served as a goad to seeking, a ground for the demand for that revelation as a continuous state.

I waited for Baba’s letter, hoping that it would bring a new blessing and clarify my trouble. But the weeks passed without a word, and I felt stuck with a vision of internal contradiction that even exceeded the one from which I had been relieved in college.

Now the mind itself, apart from any particular content, appeared as the source of our dilemma, and I wondered by what means the mind should pass and let me be.

Chapter 12
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