The Life and Understanding
Copyright 1971 By Franklin Jones
All rights reserved
Chapter 14: Shakti in America, New Problems, and the Return to India
I arrived in New York on the 29th or 30th of August, 1969. The next nine months were a period of intense investigation into the problems of spiritual consciousness. I spent that time practically in seclusion.
Nina, Pat and I rented a loft in the Wall Street area. A few friends would sometimes come to visit or seek help in their spiritual life. I rarely left the apartment, and would spend many days at a time without even going into the street. Television became my main source of information about the world.
I spent my days in constant meditation. There were periods in every day when we sat for formal meditation, but meditation had now become for me a constant activity in consciousness. I wanted to probe deeply into the matter of spiritual experience in order to see it as a whole and recognize its primary wisdom.
To that point, spiritual life had been for me an experimental activity. It had not stabilized in a single farce of understanding and real consciousness. The traditions of spirituality seemed to me a mixed bag of many different forms of experience and interpretation. The goal of it all was not something that all saints, religions or scriptures acknowledged in common. The form of seeking and revelation was different in all cases. The description of the nature of the world was different in many cases, and amounted to at least two radical alternatives. There was the traditional Oriental view that the world is an illusion created by an error in self-knowledge. And there was the traditional Western view that all of this was the creation of God. Some sought liberation and others salvation. Some claimed identity with the Divine, whereas others claimed a radical, eternal distinction and even separation between the Divine, the human or the soul, and the various worlds.
I worked in order to realize the fundamental truth that was freedom and also real knowledge. And no one anywhere represented that truth to me without qualification.
I continued to teach. This took the form of discussions about spiritual life, practice, meditation, and experience. People would come to discuss the ideas they gathered in various books. Some only wanted to hear comparative philosophy, learn secret techniques, or get information about various psychic phenomena. Some were concerned with healing, diet, what to do, what not to do. Some wanted estimations of various saints, organizations, religions. Some wanted more “data” to add to their Scientology. Some were looking for particular saintly qualities which their reading had led them to expect in any one who pretended to have spiritual experience. Most of them were not serious enough about the problems of existence to learn any more than the traditional spiritual gossip.
But several of them stayed long enough and approached the whole matter from a depth in themselves that made certain illumination possible. These people had “experiences,” and began to meditate with real consciousness. Some of them would remain for a few months, and then I let them go. I found that the Guru-disciple relationship was not particularly adaptable to Western life or to creative life. And the phenomena that I wanted them to attain were not spiritual in the ordinary sense, but a communication of reality in which they could found their lives. Thus, we came together for a while, and when I saw that they needed to be free to go, I let them go.
The two people closest to me were my wife, Nina, and Pat Morley. Nina has been not only my dear wife and companion but one of my closest disciples. She has come with me through the long adventure of spiritual events, and she has been a willing subject for every part of my experiments. Pat has also been not only a dear friend but a devotee. She is the very force of devotional love. Both of them have passed through the hourly expansions of this experience, and they are probably the best examples of its various phenomena.
Because of their closeness to me I have been able to observe in them the instant effects of my various approaches to these problems and to the forms of teaching. And they represent two extremes of experience. Nina is not particularly prone to the typical mystical phenomena of spiritual life. This is not in any sense a sign of weakness in her or an indication that her spiritual life is undeveloped. Indeed, I prefer to call the form of existence I try to teach by another name than “spiritual.” The word “spiritual” carries all kinds of associations with an exclusive kind of experience in consciousness. It points to visionary phenomena, miracles and forms of perception that are symbolic, psychic and ultimately religious. But in fact real consciousness is unqualifiedly free. Its psychic depth is an unmodified field of awareness. And even where there is the experience of unusual phenomena on the way, such things are simply more material to be rendered in understanding.
Pat, on the other hand, quite readily moves into visionary and psychic phenomena. Before we met she had no peculiar experiences of this kind, apart from one or two childhood memories that were resurrected in meditation and revealed their hidden meaning. In the process of the unfolding Shakti and the attainment of real meditation she has come to have many unusual experiences.
Both Nina and Pat, however, are peculiarly stable, loving, open, and largely free of overwhelming egotism and internal resistance. This is the common root that made this real consciousness possible for them.
It would be valuable at this point to include specimens of their personal observations about their experience during the last few years. I asked each of them to write something about their experiences in meditation and the general result of their practice.
The first essay belongs to Nina:
Feelings of calm, well-being, emotional stability. I experienced these feelings immediately, when I first began to meditate, and gradually over the years these feelings have deepened, so that now I experience them continually, even when not in the meditative state. I became aware of this just this year, in late winter or early spring. It was startling.
Feelings of emotional relief and joy. These feelings were most pronounced early in meditation and were accompanied by weeping. These feelings no longer characterize my meditation, but I have experienced these feelings of joy and relief – laughing and weeping – when not in the meditative state. Most recently I have felt that these feelings are also experienced by my husband at the same time, and he confirms it.
Feelings that I and everything, that life, has a center. I experience the whole of everything. Yet each part, person, door, dog, cactus blooms for its own sake. This is not an intellectual understanding, so it is hard to say it, and I get intellectual talking about it. I become aware of this feeling generally when the opposite is asserted, as when the idea of a TV program goes against this understanding. This understanding is very humorous, mainly because I know that every creature is aware of it too, but there is a lot of noise and argument and propositions and categorizing and statements like, “I can’t on account of my back.”
The most distinctive physical experience I have had came in 1966 after I had been studying with Rudi for nearly two years. Franklin and I had gone to Fire Island with Rudi for a weekend, in the summer. After spending the afternoon on the beach and with friends of Rudi, we had dinner with some other people from Rudi’s class, and then Franklin and I went to bed. Rudi left to go to a party farther up the beach. I went to sleep and Franklin slept in another bed in the same room. Some time later I woke abruptly and heard Rudi blowing his nose very loudly in the living room. At that instant I experienced a very strong electric shock. I felt electricity in every cell of my body. The shock tossed my body around on the bed, lasted just an instant, maybe five seconds, and stopped. I fell asleep immediately and didn’t wake up again till next morning. I remember that I wasn’t particularly amazed by the experience – just that it happened. It seems very humorous and a rather undivine way of experiencing Shakti.
In meditation I have experienced the Shakti-energy in my forehead. This feeling has always been present in meditation. It is a feeling first of a focus of energy in the center of the forehead, then the energy diffuses and spreads throughout my body, so that I am radiating this energy. This experience has been most pronounced and stable in recent years.
Pat’s essay begins with a list of experiences she has had since I met her in Scientology in the fall of 1968. She also mentions experiences with Baba. These were the results of a trip that she, Nina and I made to the Ashram in June, 1970, and also a trip that Baba made to this country in the fall of 1970.
1. I started to fall asleep one night when something woke me. It was the sound of my throat and tongue clicking together. I became aware that I was not just that throat but was listening to it.
2. Sitting quietly in a room with Franklin. The room became very still, but I wasn’t sure what was happening. After about one hour Franklin said he had a spiritual communication from Baba.
3. I was having a dinner with Franklin when he looked up at me and all of a sudden I felt a strong flow of energy coming from his face. My face became flushed and warm. I knew that he had done something deliberately and asked what he was doing to me.
4. While Franklin was in India I was doing exercises. I sat up when I was finished. I looked up at Baba’s picture and kept staring at it for some time. I realized later I had gone into meditation for about one half hour with my eyes open.
5. I was sunbathing on the roof waiting
to hear from Franklin in India. It was a beautiful day and I felt very good. I just lay down on my back and relaxed with my eyes closed. All of a sudden my body felt as though it was filling with energy from the sun, until it was vibrating gently from the inside.
6. While I was lying in the swing under the tree in the yard I began watching everything around me, especially the tree above. Everything was beautiful to me as if I was fully conscious of every part of life around me. The longer I watched the tree the more I became part of it, with nothing separating what I was from what the tree was. When I saw a squirrel move on a branch I felt part of it too. I can remember the thought running through my head that life was meant for singing and dancing.
7. When Franklin came back from India I would start to go into meditation listening to him tell Sal, Louise, Cheri, Nina and me about his trip and experiences at the Ashram and with Baba. My eyes started to roll upward, my neck became stiff. Then I would feel very peaceful as if I could sit in that one spot forever.
8. I started meditating every day. Energy flowed through my whole body, especially in my hands. My back became rigid while meditating and my head ached painfully. Soon meditation became unpleasant and uncomfortable.
9. When I began having visions the pain ceased. I’d see serpents and become part of Indian paintings, see bright lights, and beautiful scenery while meditating.
10. Sometimes I would feel very strong as if I had the strength of a man, then a few minutes later I became soft and very feminine.
11. On one particular day I started feeling a tremendous love for everyone, especially toward Franklin, and felt a closeness, almost becoming part of him. While we were meditating I heard him breathing near me. I became that breath going up and down his throat. Another time a shot of energy went through me directly from him and startled me.
12. This is a recurrent experience from childhood. It begins when I am a tiny pinpoint located in about the center of my body but not actually part of the body. The pinpoint starts expanding, and as it does my whole body shape is filled like air in a balloon. Then it keeps expanding the body shape, like the balloon stretching out of proportion, until I become as huge as the room, having no ending. This experience comes many times when I’m not in meditation, usually when I’m relaxed, lying down, ready to sleep. I remember experiencing this as far back as about 7 years old.
13. My meditating became quite blissful for a while but the feeling wouldn’t last long when I stopped. Then movements started. My eyes rolled upward, sometimes fluttering, sometimes very painful, and my backbone became stiff, as if it had a steel rod keeping it in place. My hands would also become rigid in different positions. Then my whole body became rigid in a meditative position, without the usual aches from holding the position. Soon I would lose the feeling of my body altogether.
14. Some days I would smell beautiful perfumes. Baba spoke to me in meditation, telling me how to say “So-Ham” while meditating. Another time I heard the voice of a woman speak to me while I was meditating, telling me not to speak but that she would take care of everything. I did not have a vision of her but could hear her voice speak from inside my own body.
15. I began having visions of sitting at Nityananda’s feet and seeing him in a red plaid flannel shirt looking very happy.
16. For a few weeks, every time I sat down to meditate I would lose consciousness, as if I had fallen asleep. When I woke I was quite relaxed and peaceful. My head would fall down to the floor and remain until I was awake again. When the sleeping stage ended, I began getting restless during meditation and couldn’t sit still. ??y body ached, and my mind would not become quiet. As this stage ended my meditation became just pleasant without any unusual happenings.
17. I started feeling a closeness to Baba only when we knew we were going to India. I wrote to Baba but didn’t receive a written answer from him. One day while meditating I heard Amma’s voice thanking me for Baba and telling me that he was happy to receive my letter. I received strong Shakti from Baba and had many wonderful experiences similar to those I had in the past. I felt the force even stronger when I went to Nityananda’s Samadhi (burial place). My head would hurt, my eyes were pulled upward, and so much energy would fill my head that I thought it would burst.
18. When Baba came to California I began having strong Shakti experiences, the way I did in India. I sat with him for many hours feeling the energy rush upward, pulling my eyes up. Then the pulling would stop and I would experience a beautiful calm.
19. Recently while meditating I started watching the energy travel from one center of my body to the other, from the stomach to the heart to the head. When I was startled by a noise the center where I was located responded and felt the jolt. I usually felt this in my stomach when I became nervous or frightened. One day I felt the noise in my heart.
20. Some days later I was having peaceful meditation when all of a sudden I became aware of a small, rectangular shaped, shiny gold spot in the center of my body, across from my heart. It was a beautiful feeling and seemed quite important at the time. The energy was poring inward toward this spot like it was the center of my life. Then my body began to tingle, and the energy slowly flowed from this center throughout the rest of my body.
When I meditate now I am no longer just trying to quiet my mind or to have many experiences. I have realized a consciousness during meditation which is continuing more evenly, whether I am . meditating or not. Whenever I become depressed, upset or negative in any way I know I am not living with this consciousness. When I meditate I try not to block any sound, thought, suggestion or feeling from myself. When I do this I become open to all of the experiences coming to me. I am not doing it for the purpose of these experiences, but to enjoy the consciousness of being part of all of life. This is happening more frequently now than in the past, whether or not I am sitting to meditate, and the consciousness is becoming more stable.
You will notice that in Nina’s case there were fewer of the kinds of peculiar phenomena that are characteristic of mystical experience. But in both cases the essential experience that becomes stably realized and valued is the same one of “being part of all of life” or experiencing “the whole of everything. This is the power of reality, of unqualified relationship, non-separation, no suffering, and no-seeking in the heart. This is in fact the primary experience and knowledge that obviates all particular experiences and motivations. my purpose has been to make this realization possible as the real foundation of conscious life. And when it comes it is not a mere idea or belief, or a feeling that depends on any circumstances. It becomes a function of actual consciousness, of unqualified being. Then it develops over time into radical knowledge and free creative existence.
At this same time, in the fall of 1969, I spent my days meditating on the forms of consciousness, observing the processes of my seeking, and also keeping a written record of my understanding. I edited all of the extant journals of My understanding and made a book out of them, which. I completed early in November. I also produced the first draft of a novel on the theme of spiritual seeking. It was largely based on the images I had perceived during my period of writing on the beach.
My own experience was not yet conclusive. I had not yet or finally understood in a radical way. But my experience had developed to the point where my literary interests were reawakened. I had attained the point of view or at least the original impulse of my own writing. Eventually, I would describe that point of view in my autobiography and in the teaching of understanding. And I would also extend it as its own perception in works of fiction. I knew that I would teach, and my teaching would be in the form and art of writing. It would be a literature of real consciousness.
I was also concerned with the need to understand the relation between consciousness, reality, Shakti and the idea of the Divine Being. In hourly meditation I had begun to have an experience of ultimate reality that foreshadowed events to follow in the spring of 1970.
As I meditated I began to experience an impression of the Divine Being over against my own life on every level. He was not only the ultimate Self-nature or Consciousness, but he included in his active Presence the Force known as Shakti. He was like Krishna or Siva-Shakti, the personal Godhead. As I went on in this way I began to perceive that this Divine Being and Presence included all things in himself. He had become the universe. This accounted for my first experience at the Ashram, wherein I perceived that everything was “being lived.”
This Divine Being included all that I experienced, even the Guru, my own states moment to moment, and the whole universe of the Shakti’s expression. Thus, I began to realize that he not only included the objects in my awareness, but he was the very subject who experienced all the states I felt I myself had been experiencing. He was my nature and my experience. There was nothing but him.
Soon I began to realize that I was not experiencing my experiences. He was the experiences and the experiencer. Yet, I continued to exist, apart from all of this living, in some fundamental way. But I was only experiencing him. I was not experiencing my experiences. Those experiences and that experiencing, my own apparent states moment to moment, were also him in his activity. I was not in any way a part of these.
I saw that I was only conscious being, entirely without content, created by this Divine Lord. My only experience moment to moment, under all apparent conditions, was him. That was it entirely. As this awareness grew and I became the devotee of this great Being, I wrote about my state. I would like to include some of those descriptive notes to demonstrate my awareness at this point.
I am not in relationship to the physical universe, nor to any object I perceive. I am not in relationship to my own mind, nor my body. Neither am I in relationship to my loved ones or any person. And I will never be in relationship to any particular thing. Nothing that appears to me has ever known my presence, nor will it ever know that I exist. I am always, already and only in relationship to the Divine Lord, the One who is manifesting everything and is the consciousness of everything.
Whatever I may appear to do, and whoever I may enjoy, and whatever I experience, I am always and only enjoying the direct relationship to the Divine Lord. I am never in fact separate or experiencing any entity in itself. I am never even experiencing my own separate mind and personality.
At times I have interpreted my life as separate experiences by a disconnected and unique process I identified as myself. The error was not that I experienced the play of phenomena, but that I failed to know I was always in relationship and always free. Healing is simply the instant, moment to moment recovery of this knowledge.
This knowledge is not the result of a process, a practice, a method. I am always witnessing and apparently performing such things, but knowledge is a grace, a suddenness, an awareness outside of all activity, all strife and all the influence of experience. And this knowledge is totally liberating. The more profound it goes within the simpler the truth appears, and it is simply unqualified consciousness, awareness, and bliss. It is a life prior to the mind and all identification with manifestation. It is marked by direct experience, a calm, questionless awareness, peace, the knowledge of self as bliss. And its essential content is the consciousness of the Divine Lord, the Presence, the actual source and object.
The Divine Lord is not the symbol of religions. He is not the one in whom you are persuaded to believe. He is not an entity, a mental object, a reduction of reality or a phenomenon within the whole world. He is One who must be realized to be known. He is not known prior to the realization of life. It is simply that the tacit understanding of the man who is beyond conflict and who enjoys the perception of non-contradiction is suddenly voices as this recognition. It is the testimony of his absolute freedom and enjoyment and not the description of a path for the mind in its bondage. But neither is the way the avoidance of devotion and worship of the prophetic symbol. Men will act and seek in any case and enjoy the consolations of their many answers. It is simply that when there is a return to understanding there is an end to seeking, questioning, descriptive belief and all conflict, and these are replaced by immediate recognition.
The Divine Lord, who is present universally but who is not qualified by any manifestation, who is the source and consciousness and control of all processes, who is manifesting everything, who transcends everything, who is that alone to which you are related, who is that alone of which you are conscious, who is freedom, consciousness, actual Presence, perfect knowledge and absolute bliss, who alone is your Self and that of all things, who is the Guru, the Teacher, is the principle of life. The solitary necessity for our freedom, if we could assume Him to be what He is, is to allow Him to exist, to manifest Himself as everything, to be the transcendent Presence known anywhere.
The relationship to the Divine Lord is salvation. His grace, whatever form it takes, is simply to make His existence, as He is, real to us. This Lord is the Lord, and all men are communicating their level of realization of Him. All religions, all religious statements, all spiritual paths, truths and witnesses are communications about this Presence modified by the limitations of their realization and the historical circumstances of the transmission. He is knowable and He must be known.
The essential realization of the meditative act is that this present consciousness, my awareness at this instant, the entire reality which is my present experience is in fact the consciousness and experience of the Divine Lord. He is experiencing this. He is this state, this awareness, this manifestation. The moment of this recognition breaks the entire form of bondage.
The truth is that all manifestation is being lived, all consciousness is the present consciousness of the Divine. Totality is the present actuality as a simultaneous realization, manifestation and experience of the Divine Lord. Our bondage, the root of ignorance, suffering, the activity of sin, is simply the result of the loss of this conscious knowledge. Instead of living in the bliss of this infinite freedom we identify our present awareness, the form of consciousness and experience at this moment, as a separate, unique and finitely personal reality. Thus we lose the freedom of totality, the infinitely unburdened bliss of pure consciousness of the Divine, and fall into the expression of finite and separate existence. I do not mean to say that when we’ are fully in the truth we cease to exist in a world, in relationship to one another. It is simply that we come to live life truly, directly, in the full bliss of the relationship to the Divine. In the free and natural state we cease to enforce the form of ignorance and the conditions its assumptions create.
Normally we assume: I am having this experience. Every moment of life is informed by this affirmation. Moment to moment this awareness of being a separate identity is communicated to the whole of life. And life becomes an expansion out of the idea of this individuation, a process whereby the separate and absolute ego tries to predicate all reality to itself in order to regain the totality intuited ultimate state in which reality is recognized exactly beneath the mind. This is the source of life as dilemma and mortality, suffering and tragedy, dark humor and search. It is simply a matter of a failure to recognize the truth of our condition, our right relationship, the actual reality. In fact the Divine Lord, the conscious subject and source of all manifestation, is the one experiencer of everything, and what we now identify as our selves is simply our awareness of the Reality of the Divine.
The quality of life proceeds from the form of cognition we assume. It is only necessary to return again and again to the form of reality, which is the actual and conscious relationship to the Divine Lord, who is that alone of which we are conscious.
The mind is only a process of experience. We suffer because of the quality of our relationship to the mind. When we do not enjoy the Divine, we are identified with the force of experience.
The universe is conscious. There is consciousness everywhere. There is only consciousness, and a universal event, a simultaneous reality.
The form of consciousness is the enjoyment of the Divine Lord. That relationship is reality. It is consciousness. It is unqualified enjoyment. It is the realized actuality.
There is a completion of all the reasons.
It seemed to me at the time that I had realized the ultimate state in which reality is recognized exactly as it is. And this knowledge or wisdom itself seemed to be the perfect and liberating truth, the supreme interpretation of all experience, and the key to every kind of dilemma in any form of existence.
However, as days passed I began to feel an overwhelming burden in this state. I had predicated everything to the Divine and nothing to myself. My extreme and constant concentration on him made me more and more immobile. My own existence remained as a constant problem that needed to be continually reabsorbed in this special state of devotional sublimity.
Eventually, my own creative force began to emerge and break away from this form of teaching. And new experiences of Shakti arose to teach me further regarding the form of real consciousness. Thus, I abandoned this forceful perception, or it simply passed from me and left me loose. But a remnant of it was retained to rise again in a new form when I returned to India in the spring. A part of me remained discontent with knowledge and demanded a devotional fulfilment, even a fulfilment of my childhood love of Christ.
Around the first of the year, 1970, I received a letter from a young African man at the Ashram. My reply to his letter was to mark a new phase in my relationship to Baba. Baba had given me the right to teach, and he placed no condition on it. I should teach those who came-to me, and I should teach not what I had been told, no tradition I had learned in the mind, but exactly according to the understanding and intuitive communication I received within.
While I was in India the previous summer a young man arrived from Uganda. He saw me sitting in a crowd with Baba, and for some reason he became convinced that I was to be the instrument for his instruction. I met him at the Ashram during a short visit there during my stay in August, and he told me about this. He had been having constant visions of me since the day he saw me.
He asked if he could meditate with me in the mornings. I told him that I would not presume to teach him, but he could meditate along with me if he liked. And so he came every morning. wen I left he kept demanding a blessing and called me “Master” with profound devotion. But I only wished him well and told him to seek out Baba as his Guru.
During the months that followed my return to America he wrote me once or twice, each time describing his problems, his dissatisfaction at the Ashram, and always asking for advice. I replied each time by telling him of my experiences of Baba’s grace and recommending that he speak to Baba about these same problems and then follow his advice. I also recommended certain books in the Ashram library that he might find useful.
However, in January, when I received his last letter, I had myself become individuated from Baba. :’y own experience and understanding had never developed along traditional lines, and that recent development of devotional philosophy that epitomized the Indian tradition, and which I had in turn been forced to abandon, seemed to indicate to me that the truth lay in a radically new approach to the problems of spirituality and life.
I had also enjoyed or suffered the experience of teaching more than a dozen Westerners in a direct, intimate, eye to eye confrontation, day to day. And I saw how the teaching required was anything but a traditional philosophy of spiritual ideas and practice.
Thus, I was moved to write to this man more directly. I made no effort to turn him from Baba. He was in Baba’s care and had been moved to go to Baba’s Ashram for help. I believed that he must take advantage of his given resources. And I had no doubt that Baba could provide him with the keys to spiritual life. But I was willing to tell him more directly what had become my point of view on spiritual matters. Indeed, he seemed almost ready to leave Baba’s Ashram, and I thought that if he could see exactly that I was not a teacher in the traditional sense he might cease to be enamored of me and turn again to Baba.
Thus, I told him that I was not a disciple of Baba in the usual sense. I did not approach Baba in the traditional way. I pursued my experience in terms of a radical understanding of my motives, moment to moment, rather than as a motivation to the usual spiritual effort. Even in the case of my own students, I told him, I do not make them concerned to receive Shaktipat, nor do I recommend various exercises for its development. I simply direct them to understand their motives and problems, and thus to perceive reality directly, radically free of the habits of seeking. I told him he must seek his answers with Baba, since these things were not my purpose.
A week or two later I received a letter from the Ashram. The letter was written by Amma, but spoken in Baba’s name. Baba was outraged. He had read my letter to the young African. How could anyone presume to teach who needed help himself? What tradition do you belong to if not the tradition of Muktananda and Nityananda? Perhaps it is true, as we have heard, that you try to steal disciples from other teachers!
The letter was an outright demonstration of duplicity and misunderstanding. I had sensed a certain contemptuousness for Westerners at the Ashram, and I had felt how every real achievement on my part seemed to pose a threat to the spiritual “establishment” of the Ashram, its traditions, and the position of the Guru. Now it appeared that the worst of it was true even of Baba himself.
I never approached any source of knowledge in the manner implied. I was not some curious slob picking up crumbs from the Guru’s table. I did not hire myself out as an eternally dependent disciple. Nor did my experiences with Baba arise out of the blue, without a long life of perception, effort and certain experience of a conclusive kind, generated independently for my sake. Neither did I live now as a self-defeated wretch, howling for visions and illumination.
The understanding of our position in relation to all reality is humbling, and it requires the acceptance of the relative unimportance of our individuality. However, I was not willing to advocate myself as incarnate ignorance, particularly in the face of such a bold and unillumined attack. It seemed to me that a part of wisdom is to love and acknowledge your own. And Baba seemed dependent, in this case, on maintaining the weakness of his disciples. He was demonstrating an unwillingness to acknowledge my freedom in the independent growth that is the true gift of the Shakti. And he was failing to acknowledge one of the primary laws of the Guru-disciple relationship, that the disciple by grace becomes a Guru like his master. After all, Baba had himself given me the right and the task of teaching.
I felt it was time to remove the veil of intuitive silence between me and Baba. He must know what I understood and how I related to him. I posed no threat to him. I had been very careful to turn the young African always in Baba’s direction. But I reserved the right to understand what had been given me in reality. Indeed, to fail to do so would be to deny the truth of my entire life.
I know that I was already independent of Baba in a radical sense. My understanding grew as a result of my whole life, not my bare five weeks in India. I was profoundly grateful for Baba’s grace, and it had surely given me great experience and continuous resources for my work, but it appeared the time had come for me to assert myself again in the face of another jealous parent. I would state my position clearly, as it was proven in my experience, and if Baba could not tolerate me on those terms, I was willing to accept my total independence.
Thus, I wrote a long and forceful letter of complaint and justification. I explained my whole position and tried to clarify the role I had wanted to assume in my letter to the African. I showed Baba how my own experience was developing along the lines of a radical understanding, free from the beginning of all the limitations of seeking. I posed myself to him in gratitude. I said that if he were to allow me as a disciple I would be a disciple of this kind, or else he should let me go.
The letter I received in reply barely indicated that Baba was aware of what I had written. It was a brief, reconciling letter, and I am sure my own letter had appeared too strong for anyone to take to Baba. Perhaps he had only heard parts of it. The reply only stated that Baba wanted to be sure I was not trying to turn people from the Ashram. I should feel free to teach as I desired in America. It closed with the admonition that the disciple chooses the Guru, not the Guru the disciple.
I was satisfied that Baba wished the relationship to continue. And it seemed valuable to maintain it for my own sake. But it seemed to me that I had touched on a fundamental limitation in the traditional Indian way. Even in a man of Baba’s stature there was not this radical concern for the wisdom of truth. He preached a tradition and enjoyed his karma or role within it. There was nothing more to say about it. If I came and found the truth for myself, it was my business to communicate it as I saw fit. But don’t rock the boat! And so I renewed my own path with a sense of independence and responsibility to the exact perception of reality, without recourse to any compromise, tradition, or sense of familial dependence.
During the following months I continued to have experiences of various kinds, as I had in India. Particularly at night when the body was set aside, I experienced fully conscious meetings with various saints, yogis and miracle-workers. I was allowed to witness miraculous demonstrations in a school for Siddhas, the yogis who practice various powers. I saw in detail the processes whereby saints materialize objects and living things.
Even though physically separated from Baba, I would often experience his sudden Presence in miraculous ways. Frequently I would feel him acquire my body, so that I knew all of my functions had become his body. He would particularly take over my face and hands. I could feel my features adapting to the expression of his character and mood. The special formulation of the Shakti that works through him would pour through my hands and face. My mouth would twitch about my teeth in his peculiar manner by which he communicates sublime feeling, an index finger would point above, to the sahasrar, to the holy place, the Guru and God.
In meditation I would experience Bhagavan Nityananda taking over my psychic form. My subtle, astral body and my physical body would expand with great force, and I would feel myself with dimensions larger than any conceivable space. I would feel his subtle breathing, and my abdomen took on the “pot-shaped” form know in Tibetan yoga.
These manifestations were not simply internal. Frequently my perceptions coincided with certain external events. Thus, a friend once came to see me after a long stay at the Ashram. We bowed to Baba’s picture and felt the Shakti fill the room. Just then, the flowers that were nailed about the portrait flew off and landed at our feet.
Along with the experiences, my own awareness seemed to be developing along unique lines. The various phenomena of spirituality seemed to me interesting but inconsequential. The activities of the Shakti demonstrated much about the origins and our true relationship to conditions of existence, but the knowledge or acquisition of such phenomena was not equal to the truth. The pursuit of spiritual phenomena, the solution to the problem of life conceived on a spiritual level, seemed to me just another and more dramatic form of seeking, suffering and separation. Indeed, this pursuit again was only another manifestation of the logic of Narcissus, the complex avoidance of relationship, the present, and radical condition of relationship as prior reality. I was not in any sense devoted to seeking in any form.
Then, sometime in February, I experienced a remarkable revolution in consciousness. After my second trip, and even to a degree after my first trip to India and the long course of my experience with Rudi, I had firmly identified myself, the structure of my real being, with the various instruments of the “chakra” system. That pole of energies with its various centers, high and low, seemed to me to be the foundation structure of every living being as well. as the creative source of every existing form or universe. My experiences in India seemed to demonstrate this as a fact. Thus, although the truth of real consciousness seemed to me to be one of radical understanding and “no-seeking,” the conscious enjoyment of an eternally free and unmodified state, I could not on the basis of this identification with the chakra system see how life could be performed without a certain kind of seeking.
The chakra system and the philosophy it implied demanded a conscious, intentional purification and ascent toward concentration in the highest center and in the subtlest vehicle of being, the supra-causal body. Thus, spiritual life seemed ultimately determined by this goal of ascent. And, indeed, all of the religions and spiritual paths of the world, even where there is no conscious and sophisticated knowledge of Shakti and the chakras such as it appears in the Indian and Tibetan sources, rest in this basic philosophy of purification and ascent. Even in Christianity it appears as fasting and prayer, the means of unqualified devotion and dependence on God. I had tried earlier to express my experience through Christianity. But always I returned to an understanding free of all seeking.
In February I passed through an experience that seemed to vindicate my understanding. for several nights I was awakened again and again with sharp lateral pains in my head. They felt like deep incisions in my skull and brain, as if I were undergoing an operation. During the day following the last of these experiences I realized a marvelous relief. I saw that what appeared as the sahasrar, the terminal chakra and primary lotus in the head, had been severed. The sahasrar had fallen off like a blossom. The Shakti, which previously had appeared as a polarized energy that moved up and down through the various chakras or centers producing various effects, now was released from the chakra form. There was no more polarized force. Indeed, there was no form whatsoever, no up or down, no chakras. The chakra system had been revealed as unnecessary, an arbitrary rule or setting for the play of energy. The form beneath all of the bodies, gross and subtle, had revealed itself to be as unnecessary and conditional as the bodies themselves.
Previously, all the universes seemed built and dependent upon that prior structure of ascending and descending energy, so that values were determined by the level of chakra on which consciousness functioned, and planetary bodies as well as space itself were fixed in a spherical or curved form. But now I saw that reality and real consciousness were not in the least determined by any kind of form apart from itself. Consciousness had shown its radical freedom and priority in terms of the chakra form. It had shown itself to be senior to that whole structure, dissociated from every kind of energy or Shakti. There was simply consciousness itself, prior to all forms, all dilemmas, every kind of seeking and necessity.
In the past I had been turned to the Shakti and spiritual phenomena as the route to realization. But this was a reluctant course. I knew that a fundamental and radical understanding equal to consciousness itself was in fact the source of truth. Now I saw that I was right. There was no need to have resource to any kind of phenomena, problem or structure of seeking. The Shakti was not the primary or necessary reality. Reality was the Self-nature, the foundation of pure consciousness, Siva, who is always already free of the Divine play. Thus, I was certain again that real life was not a matter of experiences and evolution. It was to be founded in radical, present consciousness.
Even my earliest experience at the Ashram now seemed the more fundamental, the necessary and sufficient revelation prior to all phenomena. I could see that it was true, although I did not yet know finally what were its consequences in knowledge. My meditation had been developing for some time along lines of my own understanding. I continued to experience the phenomena of spiritual consciousness as I had in India. These were not undesirable. They represented a real expansion of conscious experience that made it possible for me to develop my understanding on the basis of the most inclusive and exhaustive first-hand knowledge of these and every other kind of life-experience. But my way of approach was one of radical understanding. And this understanding was the foundation and fruit of my spiritual life rather than the phenomena I witnessed.
In a later chapter I will go into the details of my meditation, but I should mention some of it here in order to make the comparison. I experimented with every kind of method, but the mature form of my meditation was not based in any urge to higher experience. It was simply a direct approach to whatever experiences arose. Thus, I used no techniques, no special breathing, no mantras or visual aids to concentration. I simply enquired of myself whenever tendencies, thoughts or experiences arose: “Avoiding relationship?” Thus, I was constantly returned to a prior state of unqualified awareness. By remaining in that state through enquiry I was led to understand my own instruments and every kind of motivated experience.
I saw that all the kinds of seeking were founded in identification with a certain level of life, experience or motivation. The dilemma that was always involved was founded in a present act of differentiation, whereby what was constantly being realized was separated and threatened consciousness. Thus, I was not moved to pursue any goals, experiences or forms. All such things were merely matters of seeking. I did not even pursue my identity with Siva, Self or pure Consciousness. Such was also a form of seeking. I simply and radically founded myself in understanding, the perception of truth and reality that had been communicated through all of my experience.
All of this would develop into radical knowledge and a radical philosophy as the months passed. But I needed to endure certain other changes and forms of seeking before I would be stabilized in the knowledge of which I was already certain. Thus, I extended my experimental approach to the matters of physical experience.
In the months following my return from India I had experienced the effects that various degrees of toxicity and enervation have upon consciousness and the motivations of seeking. I often smoked cigarettes while I wrote. Occasionally I would drink with friends. And, although I maintained an essentially vegetarian diet, I would often have meat dishes and sweets, highly artificial foods, and rich preparations with my friends and family.
I began to study various hooks on diet and fasting, and I decided to experiment with these methods to see what their effects would be in consciousness and meditation. Thus, I adapted to a form of seeking based in the problem of the physical body. I became temporarily enamored with the idea of physical purification as a means of altering the state of consciousness and life. I even considered that perhaps the entire matter of seeking on mental and spiritual level was solely caused by a toxic and enervated condition in the body. If the body could be brought to a state of perfect purity, then perhaps the mind would become stilled, and consciousness might enjoy a natural, intuitive cognition of reality and spiritual truth. Perhaps the mind would achieve a state of perfect brilliance and utility. Perhaps the body itself could achieve indefinite longevity, even immortality.
I imagined that the solution to the dilemma of life might lie in a kind of Garden of Eden lawfulness and original purity. Fasting, limited food, balanced ray diet, even purely fruit diet. Perhaps we could achieve a state independent of normal food and live directly on energy. This even seemed to be supported by the evidence of a few cases on record where people have in fact lived without food of any kind for thirty, forty, even fifty years. Yogananda’s autobiography cites certain cases of this.
Thus, in March of 1970 I began a fast that was to continue for twenty-two days. Pat also joined me in this fast, and Nina did it for two, three and four days at a time, with periods of raw diet inbetween. At first I took only a couple of glasses of water every day. Then I began to take a lemon tea, made with a little fresh lemon and some honey. This had been recommended by Arnold Ehret in his excellent books on the theory and practice of fasting. It seemed to make the purifying effects of the fast more aggressive. Ehret claimed that fruity juices, such as apple and orange, would create an even more aggressive action, and we also took these occasionally, after the first week.
The first effects of the fast were remarkable. The body became light, hunger disappeared, and the mind became clear and active. I began to read at a great pace. The weight loss was considerable. I lost about six or eight pounds in the first five days. After that I lost a pound a day, and this changed to a pound every other day in the last week or ten days of the fast. My weight dropped from around 80 pounds to approximately 154 pounds in the twenty-two days.
Early in the fast there were episodes of weakness and dizziness. At time I could feel various drug deposits in the body pass through the brain. But in general I felt a brilliant physical well-being. My meditation also seemed to deepen as the various physical and vital obstacles disappeared.
After approximately two weeks. I became very weak. I could barely sit up for meditation. My pulse and heartbeat became almost unnoticeable. I began to use a vegetable extract recommended by Dr. Teofiolo De La Torre in his books on fasting. This liquid extract was made by allowing water to settle on cut, raw vegetables. It gave me some strength and allowed the fast to continue for the full term I desired.
We broke the fast with soft, cooked vegetables and fruit. All of us felt a marvelous sense of well-being. But we had become fanatic health addicts!
I went on the experiment with every kind of diet. My experiments included not only myself but other friends who had taken to fasting and pure foods as a result of my experience. I found that each fared better on different types of diet. Some required more bulk and starch. Others seemed unable to do without high-protein and meats. Others fared well on raw and cooked vegetables and fruits. I experimented with the elimination of various foods and the addition of others. All of this demonstrated that the “best” diet was not raw, macrobiotic, fruit or balanced, as their various champions proposed. But it had to be determined by an intelligent approach to each person as he appeared to any point in time.
After three months of this I had acquired much facility and first-hand knowledge of fasting and types of diet. I concluded that fasting and pure food did in fact aid one’s well-being. But these things never amounted to a dogma. The optimum way in all cases seemed to be a moderate, short term, occasional fast, and the choice of relatively pure foods, mainly vegetables, grains and fruits. Meat, stimulants such as tobacco, alcohol, rich foods, artificially prepared foods and, above all, foods in too large a quantity seemed to have a negative effect on everyone’s physical and mental well-being. But even these could be used occasionally and intelligently if their effects were offset by the judicious use of lawful diet and fasting.
I realized that the attachment to the processes of fasting and diet was itself another form of seeking. It was attachment to life as a physical and vital problem. Thus, it became a distraction, a necessity, and the ground for a goal-centered life. It absorbed consciousness like any other problem, as, for example, the problem of the mind, or the problem of spiritual consciousness.
Finally, I dropped all of these fanatical motivations. I abandoned all my attachment to the idea of fasting, and I no longer placed infinite importance on food. I ceased to be motivated by the exclusive ideals of purity, longevity, and immortality. These were only traps for conscious life and represented problem-centered motivations. All that I retained was an intelligent preference for limited appetite and quantity of food. And I maintained an essentially vegetarian diet. This simple regimen, even with the occasional use of meat, tobacco and alcohol, allowed physical existence to remain essentially stable, energetic, and, above all, free of enforced attention and problematic motivations.
The essential logic that I retained in relation to food was a simple knowledge of the basic laws of bodily effects. This amounted to a knowledge of what produces constipation and toxemia, enervation or exhaustion. I was no longer motivated by any problem or idealism in relation to the body. My understanding of the body became a practical matter of intelligence. The body appeared as a lawful economy and enjoyment. It required conscious use. Intelligent diet, occasional fasting, and healthful use of air, sun and water became simple matters of consciousness, an intelligent relationship to the body, whereas before they appeared as means to some kind of victory over life.
This brings us to May of 1970. I had passed through most of the stages of experimentation that mark my life. I had come to understand life as a proposition of radical consciousness. I saw that every deliberate path was a form of seeking that involved the moment to moment avoidance of relationship as primary activity in consciousness and in life. Thus, I had ceased to function in reaction to problems or basic dilemma. This excluded any form of life motivated by the physical and vital problem, the psychic problem, the emotional problem, the mental problem, the spiritual problem, or any other form of problem or conditional motivation. I had developed a form of radical understanding that continuously allowed life to be lived consciously, directly, free of dilemma, free of identification with any motivation or state. I will describe the philosophy and actual practice of this understanding in later chapters.
But there remained to pass a concluding episode in this adventure of understanding. As a result of my intense experimentation over a period of several years I had become somewhat isolated and vulnerable to the drama of seeking , suffering and even violence that was still going on in the world. A revolution seemed to be developing in the cities. Murder, guerrilla warfare, sniping, bombing, confrontations between the ignorant young and the ignorant who were no longer young, exploitation of self and life, absence of wisdom and understanding, absence of real experience, and under every kind of suffering seemed to have become the daily meal of the entire world. I felt that I had understood something radically important about life. But life seemed to have become untouchable, locked in the final evolution of its own mortal creation.
I decided that I should leave America for an indefinite period. My own daily experience had become so profound and so different from the exploited mentality and experience around me that I felt I would necessarily have to find a place to continue my work and my life in peace. Consequently, in May, I made arrangements for Nina, Pat and me to go to the Ashram. We sold or gave away all of our material belongings and on May 28 we flew to Bombay, to remain with the Guru indefinitely, and perhaps forever.