The Life of Understanding Series
A Twelve Week Course
Taught by Bubba Free John starting in January 1973
Life of Understanding
Lessons on the Knee of Listening
Session Twelve: The Guru As the Man of Understanding
Adi Da Samraj (Franklin Jones/Bubba Free John)
‘The Guru in the World’
oing this last section of the book called “The Man of Understanding.” Now, in the previous two weeks we’ve spoken of the Guru in two important aspects, two of his important functions. The one is the Guru as the Spiritual Master, which you spoke of the first week, and the next time we spoke of the Guru as the Divine Form, the Divine activity, Divine presence in the world and above the world, and this week we’re talking about the Man of Understanding or the Guru as a man in the world. Now the first three sentences talk about what the man of understanding is not. The man of understanding her is both the one who happens to be writing this text and any individual who has fully realized the process of understanding, so this is a general description of anyone who meets all of the qualifications of this process. Just as the first week we spoke of the Guru as Spiritual Master, that’s true of anyone who has fully qualified to perform that function. And the second time we spoke of the Guru as the Divine Form. That’s a general description of any Siddha who has fulfilled the way of understanding. And the Man of Understanding is a general description of any such individual who has fulfilled the life of understanding. This is his appearance, his quality in the world. The one who is writing it is just animating this point of view, this principle.
So the first few sentences say what he is not. “The man of understanding is not entranced. He is not elsewhere. He is not having an experience. He is not passionless or inoffensive”. So the several qualities that he is not entranced, elsewhere, having an experience, passionless and inoffensive. These are first of all the contradictions to what people may tend to think the spiritual man should be. The spiritual man is supposed to be entranced. He is supposed to be in some sort of trance state, some sort of an obvious vagueness, obvious entrancement, exaggerated state that is visible to everyone, and they can all say holy man, saint, ecstatic, umpty-ump.
“But the man of understanding is not entranced.” In other words, he is not to be identified with that quality. That doesn’t mean that the man of understanding never manifests perhaps some moments the quality of yogic samadhi as such, but he is not that. He is not identical to that, not limited to that, not identifiable. If you look for that quality in the man as a way of judging whether or not that he is the spiritual man or the Guru, you will not necessarily find the Guru when you’ve found this quality. Many people are entranced and that doesn’t make them the Guru, doesn’t make them the man of understanding.
“He is not elsewhere.” Well, ordinarily it is supposed that the spiritual man is supposed to be elsewhere. As a fundamental quality, he is supposed to be outside of his physical form somehow leaping around in astral spaces even while you stare him in the eyes. He’s not supposed to be here. That’s the taboo. You’re not supposed to be living, manifesting this form freely and happily. You’re supposed to be somehow cut off from it, and only, exclusively living some sort of subtle life. But the man of understanding is not elsewhere. In other words, he is not identical to this limitation, this separation from life. He is present.
“He is not having an experience,” which is the same thing as being elsewhere or entranced. But traditionally we would suppose that the spiritual man is supposed to be like that. He is supposed to be always involved in something, some distraction or other of some very holy variety. When he looks at you, you know, he can’t even see your face. He’s seeing all these images and auras and all that he needs to see in order to know what you’re up to. But the man of understanding is not having an experience. He’s not always distracted by some internal or external or extraordinary numbers. He sees directly. He is present directly. This is not to say that the man of understanding never has such experienced. But he is not identical to those. These are not his limiting quality. They are not even his chronic appearance.
“He is not passionless.” Everybody supposes that the spiritual man is supposed to be passionless. That’s traditionally assumed. He is supposed to be sexless, desireless, emotionless. These are what people suppose by reading the Bible and other such traditional writings. This is the propaganda of the traditional religious point of view, whatever sect it appears in. You’re supposed to be passionless and the moral thrust of religious practice is toward passionlessness, willful separation from passion. But the man of understanding is not passionless. He is alive with the force of life. He is not identical, in other words, to separation from life or the force of life.
“And he is not inoffensive.” Everybody assumes the spiritual man is supposed to be inoffensive. He is supposed to be some smiling nice guy, some sweet person who doesn’t require anything of you and who doesn’t take you by the throat. He is supposed to be a relief from all the suffering of this world that requires (requires) you to function, requires responsibility, requires suffering, limitation, frustration, and ultimate death. He is supposed to be an alternative to all that, a sort of artifice of heaven that you go to, and he smiles at you and says that life is a fountain. But the man of understanding is not inoffensive. He is not identical to that quality. That doesn’t mean that he is perhaps not at times or in a regular way sort of very calm, very profoundly peaceful, and all that, but he is not himself identical to that quality, and he is not limited to inoffensiveness, to passionlessness. It’s just that the qualities of life in him have taken on their natural form. They are controlled by that great principle of Truth. So these qualities that the man of understanding is not identical to are the ordinary qualities that we would imagine the spiritual man should possess if we think of spiritual things from the point of view of the search.
The next sentence or two or few say what the man of understanding is, and fundamentally, he is awake, and he is present, and he is passionate. Let me read the whole passage to you. “He is awake, he is present. He knows no obstruction in the form of mind, identity, differentiation, and desire. He uses mind, identity, differentiation, and desire. He is passionate. His quality is an offense to those who are entranced, to those who are entranced, elsewhere, contained in the mechanics of experience, asleep, living as various forms of identity, separation, and dependence. He is acceptable only to those who understand.” So in these few sentences, the man of understanding is, by way of contrast, not in order to limit him to these other opposite qualities, but by way of contrast, said to be the things that ordinarily we would think the spiritual man is not supposed to be. So he is awake, not entranced. He is present, not elsewhere. He is passionate, not passionless. His quality is an offense. He’s not inoffensive. His quality is an offense to those who are in these other states chronically. He is an offense to those who are entranced, who get into the yogi entrancement game. He is an offense to those who are elsewhere, those who are only and exclusively bound to some sort of vagueness, those who are contained in the mechanics of experience, those who are having an experience always, who are asleep, who are living as various forms of identity, separation, and dependence.
So since he is all these things or since he tends to generate this quality in the world, he is acceptable only to those who understand. So the man of understanding as a man in the world is one, first of all, who functions as the Truth, which tends to make all things like itself. And just as he tends to create around himself friends or a functional community that lives in the Truth, similarly only those who also understand, who do come to enjoy the conditions of Truth in his company are capable of tolerating his presence or of accepting his conditions. Alright, so let me read this next paragraph to you entirely.
“He may appear no different from any other man.” As previously we were talking about how the traditional spiritual man is supposed to appear absolutely different from everybody else. That’s how you get to know him. So all the usual spiritual types are very visible, and a lot of their attention goes into creating visibility for themselves, and they create visibility through various forms of external ritual, which are forms of action and forms of appearance, for the most part. So they create costumes and the like by which you identify them. All the people who become attached to traditional spiritual motivation these days, they’ve got to right away wear the long hair, beard, beads on the wrist, white outfit, whatever the rest of it is, speak in certain ways, do certain things, read certain things, have certain kinds of opinions, completely apart from any genuine depth or spiritual life. These are the forms of visibility. And in fact, what the traditional motivation largely manifests, for the most part, is in forms of visibility, the ritual of exclusive visibility, which is Narcissus. Narcissus is always knowing himself, so this drama of creating exclusive visibility is a Narcissistic activity.
All of these imageries by which you identify yourself with spirituality, these are ways of taking on the qualities of spirituality, or what is acknowledged to be spiritual without in fact being spiritual. And just as there are forms of visibility through appearance, there are forms of visibility through characteristic action. So there are certain ways that those who want to be thought of or seen as spiritual by themselves and others, certain ways of acting, certain things you do. So there are the various kinds of meditation practice and ways of speaking and acting to others, qualities that you’re supposed to take on in relation to others, was that you’re supposed to seem to others. You’re supposed to seem sort of trance-like and blissful, speak softly, whatever. The kind of conformity that you take on in order to be visible as something spiritual.
But the man of understanding may appear no different from any other man. That doesn’t mean that he never has any kind of visibility, that he’s sort of bland, he is an offense, it says in the paragraph before. But he is not fitted to that motivation for one thing, and second of all, he is always a paradoxical person who manifests through the ordinary qualities. So he can’t be identified through the forms of visibility in the sense of his way of acting or his way of appearing. He may act and appear in one way that’s acceptable to you one day and the next day be the absolute opposite of that. As we’ll get into this, that’s how he works. But those who come looking for the signs, who are just motivated in the traditional point of view, look for the Guru to appear in a certain way, and then if he doesn’t satisfy their expectations, they feel righteous, righteously righteous, because he’s supposed to appear that way, and if he doesn’t, then they can say “to Hell with you” to that Guru, but the Guru is always a paradox, so essentially his appearance is ordinary. “By ordinary” doesn’t mean that he only wears gray suits and white shirts and cuts his hair short. He may do that. But by “ordinary” means that he doesn’t have a fixed form of visibility in terms of action or appearance. So, “he may appear no different from any other man. How could he appear otherwise? There is nothing by which to appear except the qualities of life. He may appear to have learned nothing. He may seem to be addicted to every kind of foolishness and error. How could it be otherwise? Understanding is not a different communication than the ordinary. There is only the ordinary. There is no special and exclusive communication that is the truth. There is no exclusive state of truth. But there is the understanding of the ordinary.”
So the appearance of the man of understanding is not fixed. That’s essentially what is being said in this paragraph, because first of all, the only way to be visible is through something that is really ultimately quite ordinary. There’s no costume even that you could put on that’s not in itself ordinary. What is it made out of? So there’s no becoming extraordinary through forms of appearance and the man of understanding knows that. So he assumes no fixed visibility. There is no exclusive state that is the truth, so there is no particular state of consciousness or appearance or action to which the man of understanding fixes himself. Because no such state is itself the truth.
Well, how does he stand then in relation to all of these, the whole expanse of qualities? He stands among them as the man of understanding. His position is not one of fixation or exclusive identification with qualities and states but of the understanding of them. So relative to all qualities and states he remains free, paradoxically free in the sense that he has only these qualities by which to appear, so he’s always appearing ordinary in some sense or other, but he is not fixed in identification with any of them.
“Therefore,” this next paragraph begins, as a result of all of this, since all of this is so, “the man of understanding cannot be found.” In other words, he cannot be identified with any quality that you might hold up before the mind to use as your symbol of judgment. You hold up this picture that you carry with you always and look for somebody who looks like that, who speaks like that, who seems like that, whatever your religious ideal or other kind of ideal or image or whatever. You can’t find the man of understanding through these means. In other words, you can’t find the man of understanding through seeking. The search is not the appropriate approach to the man of understanding. You might literally be able to find yourself in relation to that one, and you will not have found what he is, you will not have found him in that sense.
“He cannot be followed.” In other words, you can’t seek him and find him. You can’t be motivated to discover the Guru or the function that is the Guru and discover it because you will always be moved by propositions that are fixed, that are limited, and with which the truth cannot be identified.
So when you come across the man of understanding, regardless of the quality that you look for by which to identify him, he will always offend that. “He is an offense to those who are entranced, elsewhere, contained in the mechanics of experience, asleep, living as various forms of identity, separation, and dependence.” So the seeker is always offended in the company of the man of understanding regardless of what pictures are motivating his search. These things must all fail, they must all come to an end, they must all dissolve in the company of the man of understanding. In Satsang, all of these things are undermined, and only those who begin to move in the principle of understanding itself, only those who understand, find him acceptable. So only those who begin to live this quality which precedes all limitations actually find him in the sense that they discover this function and live with it, live in Satsang truly, and remain in it. All others are offended, all others will separate at some point.
“He can only be understood as the ordinary.” In other words, seeking is not the proper approach to the man of understanding, only understanding is the proper approach and the appropriate approach, only that conscious activity, that real sadhana is the means of discovering him. All the other ways of motivated spiritual life fix your life and attention and ultimately separate you from the Guru as well as from your own spiritual process.
So now we get a few more of what he is not’s. “He is not spiritual. He is not religious. He is not philosophical. He is not moral. He is not fastidious, lean, and lawful.” Well, these are all the things again that people expect of the spiritual man. If he’s a spiritual man, he obviously must be spiritual. But it says here that he is not spiritual. Well if he’s not spiritual, maybe you can say he’s religious at any rate. But no, he’s not that. He’s not even philosophical. And to top if off, he’s not even moral. And he’s not fastidious, lean, and lawful. He’s not all of these ascetic qualities that people normally have as their signs, signs by which they discover and look for the Guru or for the spiritual process itself. So he can’t be discovered through the medium of these expectations. “He is not moral.” In other words, he cannot be identified animating the pretense of special forms of morality all day. That is not his point of view. That doesn’t mean he is an immoral person. But he is not identical to these sheerly visible and exaggerated qualities that we call morality. He is not equivalent to a philosopher, in other words, that is not his limitation any more than moral, external moral principles are his limitation or external moral appearances, ascetic appearances. “He is not a philosopher.” He is not a thinker. That is not what he is. Of course, he thinks, and of course, he speaks relative to philosophical matters on occasion. But he is not that specifically, nor is he specifically religious or spiritual. The qualities of the process of spiritual life then are not his limitations. So you can’t by seeking him out, expecting him to appear a certain way when you see him and to rigidly duplicate that every day, remain with the man of understanding because, and this sentence is very important because it is the very principle of his activity.
“He always appears to be the opposite of what you are.” This is the peculiar method of the man of understanding. This is (his) the peculiar quality of his activity relative to his disciples, relative to everything that lives, relative to time and space itself. In other words, the principle of his action is the paradox, not the fixed principle, because fixed principles are always exclusive, they exclude some other principle, some other activity, some other appearance. But he knows that no such appearances or activities are equal or identical to the truth. They are only forms of exclusion. But, nonetheless, only these common or ordinary appearances are the ways in which he can appear. So his situation is paradoxical to begin with and the principle of his activity then take on the same form which is the paradox. And the way the paradox manifests is always to take on the appearance of what is the opposite to you.
“He always seems to sympathize with what you deny.” You come to defend some great principle and he says, “Well, my experience is rat-a-tat.” It doesn’t mean that he’s dogmatically saying that the opposite of what you are up to is absolute truth. His method is always to counter the demand of his disciple, or of the one who approaches him. “Therefore, at times and over time he appears as every kind of persuasion.” Sooner or later he’s going to have defended every principle because he’s going to have people coming to him with different points of view, and he will characteristically soften the edge of their exclusive demand or principles by somehow or other using the opposite to balance their expectation and to blunt their attachment to that form of demand or presence or thinking or whatever.
“He is not consistent,” and everybody expects him to be consistent. People who are fixed on the whole philosophical mental approach to spiritual things look for the thread of argument and words of the Guru to be constant, and if he seems to contradict himself, they take that to mean that he’s sort of fuzzy minded or keeps changing his mind or something. They don’t understand that the principle of paradox. So he’s not consistent in what he says. So throughout this last year of giving talks in the Ashram I’ve had to speak to many people in various kinds of conditions, and at times I’ve said, “this is appropriate”, but then I’ve changed it when the Ashram has become capable of living it more intensely. As the Ashram developed functionally more, new conditions were established, so it’s continually changing. It’s not like I change my mind. And I may speak to an individual in certain terms relative to what’s appropriate in his case and say something entirely different to somebody else, because it’s a dynamic situation, this counseling and this answering of questions because the answer to a question is not the answer, the fixed reply, the image that you can fix a person in by giving him the right answer to his formalistic question. The answer is to free him of his question. To free him of his question, you must free him of the state of his question, the state that is his question. So the only arms the Guru has are paradox, inconsistency, the capacity to be opposite, and to shake up the exclusive limitation of his disciple. So, “He is not consistent. He has no image. He has no fixed appearance, no fixed quality, no fixed game.”
“At times he denies. At times he asserts.” Quite arbitrarily it seems, and in relation to the same things, because it says here, “At times he asserts what he has already denied,” and “At times he denies what he has already asserted.” So, “He is not useful.” In the ordinary terms, he is not useful. He is not dependable. God is not a bureaucrat, he is elusive, a shapeshifter. The Guru’s image shifts constantly. His appearance in the light, the quality of light, the frequency of his color changes always because he is trying to upset the principle of fixation and exclusion. That is why he is Guru. That’s the nature of the function of Guru, to take you out of all the exclusive forms into the bottomless, formless state or condition. So, his teaching is every kind of nonsense. His wisdom is vanished, altogether that is his wisdom. He is not fixed in opinion. Opinion is not the teaching, dogma is not the teaching.
There may be things that become more or less formalized for those who understand the nature of appropriate conditions. After a while, it becomes obvious what are the essential conditions at a certain level of work in the Ashram, because I have essentially withdrawn myself from that area. I no longer need to carry on any sort of special paradoxical work in the beginning levels of an approach to me now, an approach to the Ashram. So the conditions are being spelled out in very formal terms, being made very useful, very functional, very harmonious. So that a person will begin to live the life of understanding and become stable in it at a certain level and meet the paradoxical activity of the Guru at a subtler level.
But in the beginning, in the early days of the Ashram, this paradoxical work went on in relation to all the things that now have taken on a more or less stable quality. You know, I’ve had long discussions with people who wanted to argue with me for vegetarian diet, and I’ve spent long times arguing about, you know, the righteousness of killing food and of eating animal food. I’ve taken people on a fishing trip. Last year I took everybody on a fishing trip, all these people there having to kill these fish. And there was a whole bunch of them who couldn’t possibly even consider going on this fishing trip, but they were invited on a kind of a Prasad Day thing later, and they were required to eat the fish, and those who couldn’t even go that far were at least required to be there while everybody ate fish and watching me eat fish, for one thing, and that turned a lot of people away, as a matter of fact. So I’ve had these long, seemingly antagonistic discussions with people who wanted to defend the vegetarian diet because in them it wasn’t just the vegetarian diet they were representing. It was that whole fixed and limited tendency.
So there are numerous examples of that throughout the year, people who wanted me to be Jesus-like so on New Years’ Eve I smoked cigarettes and drank wine. It’s just that at another stage of the work it becomes appropriate to then allow the formality of appropriate action to take over at a certain level of the work, and I just withdraw from that and then people confront the paradoxical quality of the work on another level rather than down there with all of that.
Relevant to this, when I was going through this today, I happened to remember this that I had read recently, The Sixth Patriarch, Hui-Neng. So this is a book called The Altar Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, who was the last of the Patriarchs in China, who developed Cha’an or what become in Japan, Zen Buddhism. And it’s really one of the great books, this Altar Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Very shortly before his death he gathered those of his genuine disciples together who were then going to have to take over all of his Ashrams and carry on his work, and he told them how to instruct those who came to them. He said, “If someone suddenly asks you about the Dharma,” or the teaching, the way, “your answer should be based on a pair of extremes depending on each other for their existence until both are wiped out leaving nothing behind. If someone puts a question to you and asks you about the existing, mention the non-existent, mention the existing in your answer. If you are asked about the worldly, mention the saintly in your answer. If you are asked about the saintly, mention the worldly in your answer. Thus the mutual dependence of the two extremes will bring to light the significance of the mean,” of the true principle beneath all forms of opposition. “If all questions are answered in this manner you will not err from the principle.” So he’s expressing here this paradoxical approach, the necessary approach of the Guru or the presence of the teaching in the world is always paradox.
Paradox is another word for the radical approach of Truth because what is not radical, what is revolutionary, is a form of exclusive attachment. Revolution is always an exclusive defense of some principle over against some other principle, but what is radical is not attached to an exclusive principle, image, quality. It is not limited to that. What is radical always has a paradoxical quality relative to the apparent things in the world but also has an absolutely intense or perfect penetration of the qualities of the world. So by taking on the form of opposition relative to a disciple or to the quality in an individual, offending him, by requiring him to meet conditions that he doesn’t want to, all of these forms of opposition tend to take him out of the ritual of his own exclusiveness and put him into the genuine condition of the opposites of this world so that his movement toward exclusiveness begins to show its true nature to him.
His ritual activity of avoidance is always in a movement toward an exclusive quality of some form or other but is never satisfactory and it always tends to break down again because the opposite is always in his mind.
It’s always there to be fulfilled. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. For every karmic contraction, there’s a karmic expansion that you must fulfill. So the Truth always moves with this radical force which undermines exclusive movement, exclusive attachment, exclusive identification, and moves you into quality of Truth, the prior nature which precedes opposition, and this is what Hui Neng here means by the mean, the middle way.
The middle way is not as it’s commonly interpreted to be, a sort of moral point of view where you don’t heavily indulge yourself nor heavily deny yourself but you sort of are moderate. In terms of practice or forms of activity we could say that’s the middle way, but the mean or middle way means the profound middle way, the paradox, the radical quality that is Truth itself, the Buddha nature, the Self. “At last he represents no truth at all.” In other words, he does not stand for, represent to the world some limited or exclusive conception of the goal or the path. He is always paradoxical, and for this reason, is not acceptable to those who are not moved by the quality of Truth. So those who react to our work in all kinds of arbitrary ways are doing so because the quality of the process of real consciousness and Truth is not of interest to them. They are involved in the karmic drama or adventure of oppositions, of qualities, of fixations. But the man of understanding represents no truth, no fixed appearance. He represents this hole in life, this hole in the universe, this paradoxical place, this black hole. These paradoxical spaceless places, these terminals of the universe that are somehow also in the universe. Well, the man of understanding is like that in a certain sense.
“Therefore”, since he represents no fixed quality, “his living”, his very presence, “coaxes everyone only to understand,” because he can’t coax you toward a quality, toward a motivation. His paradoxical presence does not imply that, does not satisfy it, doesn’t reinforce it. So living in relationship to such a one, living in Satsang tends to produce the crises that becomes understanding. “His existence denies every truth, every path by which men depend on certain truths, certain experiences, certain simulations of freedom and enjoyment.” His very presence denies the fixed value, the fixed quality of all motivations.”
He is a seducer, a madman, a hoax, a libertine, a fool, a moralist, a sayer of truths, a bearer of all experience, a righteous knave, a prince, a child, an old on, an ascetic, a god.” You know some people, just speaking in general of the artificial spiritual cult in this country, like to think that you can be spiritual, and they’ve got all the classic texts behind them that seem to represent their point of view, that you can be spiritual and at the same time not change life one iota. You can be a self-exploiter in all the terms that possibly can be imagined by human beings and even suffer and go through with all the ordinary qualities, but that’s perfectly coincident with the realized life. So all kinds of people who have not done sadhana in the genuine sense, who are not presently living the principle of real existence, but who are still karmically attached to all kinds of rituals of self-indulgence, somehow get believed by people to be spiritual masters. But it’s absolutely untrue. A spiritual master cannot be an addicted individual, an untransformed individual. The Divine Reality doesn’t exist anywhere without transforming it so the spiritual master is necessarily one in whom the transformation of truth is active. Some people think that because they have the karmic capacity to be sort of deadpan and lean and detached, ascetic looking and all of this, because they have this peculiar quality of the holy man just in the way they look, they get pawned off, believed by people to be spiritual masters. And so see lots of Guru-types, the well-known in the newspaper gurus that are around that have this sort of guru-beauty. They’ve got the swept hair and the lean features and whatever else is required, and they get accepted because of the appearance they can generate, the quality that they generate.
Now this sentence here is describing the Guru in several opposite terms. He is a seducer, but he is also an ascetic, a libertine and also an ascetic, a fool and also a god, and all these. It’s just a sentence to describe him relative to the opposites. In other words, it’s just another sentence in this whole thing called “The Man of Understanding” in which the paradoxical presence of the man of understanding is being symbolized or described. Now it may also happen that one who is functioning as a Guru may take on some quality that seems to be very exaggerated in this sense. There have been some who have been Guru who have for one reason or another taken on some apparently immoral appearance temporarily or who have been intoxicated on liquor and all this sort of thing. Generally though not as a life long activity, but in some cases there were individuals who did this temporarily for some specific purpose.
For the most part however, the Siddhas are paradoxical in the most subtle sense, in that that is the nature of the principle of their activity. They didn’t take on the exaggerated social forms literally that are described here, for the most part. These qualities for instance, are sort of archetypal of fundamental human social qualities that are either expected by one who comes to seek the Guru, or they are themselves the qualities of one who seeks the Guru. So if someone comes to the Guru who is himself addicted to sexual excesses, the Guru takes on the opinion and the quality of being a prig, a celibate. The other guy who may come the next time, who is himself completely and willfully involved and finds it very easy to absolutely celibate and righteously celibate and all of that, well in his eyes, the Guru begins to take on all of the qualities of a very excessive sexually obsessed personality. And the same with all of these qualities. They’re just ways the Guru has of remaining opposite to the strategy of Narcissus so that he breaks down the expectations of Narcissus. And Narcissus uses all of this fuel because Narcissus is very sensitive to the opposite.
“He demonstrates the futility of all things,” of all fixed positions, all fixed points of view.” “Therefore, he makes understanding the only possibility. And understanding makes no difference at all. Except it is reality, which was already the case.” In other words, understanding is not something that makes a difference. It’s not itself some exclusive form or force or idea or state. It is the perfect state, the moon, the Buddha mind, the Self, the Very Nature, the form of God in which there is no longer limitation to qualities, no exclusive identification. So it doesn’t make a difference to understand or to live the truth. It doesn’t make a difference in this sense. The difference it makes is that it is reality, it is the Very Nature, the very Self which was already the case, prior to all these differences and things that make a difference.
(Listen side 2)
Now this next paragraph begins, “Heartless one, Narcissus, friend, loved one.” This description of the man of understanding is written by the man of understanding. This is the point of view of this particular essay. It’s addressed to one who does not understanding or to all beings as one who does not understand. It’s addressed by the man of understand, who is this whole process of paradox, functions as truth in relation to Narcissus, one who takes on the fixed and exclusive quality, just as the Guru as Spiritual Master functions as Truth relative to disciples. So relative to disciples, true disciples, the Guru has a certain quality which is perhaps not paradoxical in all these obvious ways that it seems here. He seems much more straight forward and is indeed very straight forward. But as a man in the world, as the man of understanding, relative to all individuals, all ordinary forms and processes, the Guru also functions, but he functions as the man of understanding, as the paradoxical presence. So now we see that this letter is in fact addressed, or this essay is addressed, as the man of understanding, functioning, then describing himself to Narcissus. The Guru or the man of understanding is showing Narcissus, letting Narcissus know how he works, how he himself works, the man of understanding works. Therefore explaining in some way to Narcissus perhaps who he, the man of understanding, has the effect on Narcissus that he does.
So that’s why this essay comes at the end of this book. It’s to somehow describe the paradoxical nature of one who is all things that I’ve described in this book, of one who functions in these terms, for the sake of the reader who is not expected at this point all of a sudden of be self-realized simply because he’s read a book. He will have ambiguous feeling. He still will be attached one some sense to the game of Narcissus, really attached to it because he hasn’t done any sadhana by reading this book. So this last is an address to him without condescension. It’s an address to Narcissus, to this game, this drama. So he’s not just called Narcissus in order to offend him. He’s called heartless one, friend, loved one, but also Narcissus.
“He weeps for you to understand.” In other words, the man of understanding, the Guru in the world, profoundly would have the world understand. The nature of his presence in this intention, this requirement, this wish, this hope for the world. But even this hope that the man of understanding lives is paradoxical because it is absolutely impossible for the world to understand. The world will never be anything but Narcissus. This is the principle of the world. Some may turn about of course. But the principle of the world is very likely to remain the same because the turn-about, the becoming of Truth in this world requires the creative dissolution of Narcissus, not the magical disappearance of Narcissus. So spiritual life in the presence of the man of understanding in the world is always a creative process. It’s always relative to the essential, fundamental limitation of the world.
“After all of this why haven’t you understood?” The one who writes this book knows very well that the guy who’s reading this last paragraph hasn’t changed one iota by reading this book. It’s assumed, and it’s not a magical assumption, it’s obvious that nobody is going to have understood in any fundamental way as a result of reading this book. Perhaps something has begun. “The only thing you have not done is understanding. You have seen everything, but you do not understand.
“Therefore, the man of understanding leaps for joy that you have already understood.” This is the madness of the man of understanding, because he lives in a madhouse. Truth lives in an insane environment. But the Truth in the form of the Guru, in the form of the man of understanding does not take on the principle or the quality or the point of view of Narcissus or of the world. He remains the man of understanding, and in order to remain the man of understanding he must live the quality of the man of understanding, and to live the quality of the man of understanding is not to take on the images of the world, not to believe the world, not to reflect in his own mind the quality of the world as it is being lived in ignorance.
So, instead of getting dramatically upset and depressed by the fact that the world does not understand, the man of understanding is humorous. He acts as if the world already understood. He sees the world as a place of understanding, a place of illumination. He sees everything already self-realized, already true. But by assuming this paradoxical role which is also a quality of his paradoxical activity, this is his means of coaxing everyone only to understand. This is his way of curing Narcissus, not by acting as if Narcissus is Narcissus all the time. He’d put a bullet through his head in a short time if he went around actually seeing everybody doing that all the time. He would lose his humor. But the quality of one who understands is humor, prior humor. So by remaining humorous, by acting as if the world understands, by remaining joyful, even under the ordinary conditions of the world, essentially free and blissful even though the world remains as it is, by doing this, he also does paradoxical work that cures the world, coaxes it to understand. By these means he makes disciples, not by acting toward his disciple like his disciple actually is, but by always representing to him the form of Truth, the form of life, always living in humor with those who come to him, he makes disciples out of them.
“He looks at the world.” This is after he’s begun to leap for joy. (laughter) Did I write that? (laughter) “He looks at the world and sees that everyone and everything has already understood, He sees that there is only understanding.” Not that there is a world that doesn’t understand and must understand, but he sees that there is only understanding, already. That’s all that there is. This is again a way of reflecting the nature of his humor, this is paradox, this is not delusion. “Thus, the man of understanding is constantly happy with you. He is overwhelmed with happiness. He says to you: “See how there is only this world of perfect enjoyment where everyone is happy and everything is blissful. His heart is always tearful with the endless happiness of the world.” Now obviously, if this were literally so of him, he would be insane. But no, this is part of his paradoxical quality. He always speaks in terms of bliss, of happiness, of Truth, of sadhana, of all of these things, and of Self-Realization in the world as being an entirely blissful process, which it is. And he represents it unconditionally to everyone. In other words, the activity of his presence in the world is not one of believing the world as it is but of always acting from the principle of his own realization, not the principle of the appearance that the world itself generates.
So now in this last paragraph, the first few sentences are describing his position in the world, his relationship to the world in terms of paradoxes. “He has grasped it but no one is interested.” This is the way it is. Not only has nobody else grasped it, but nobody is interested in it. Understanding has no cash value in this world. It’s not a principle that is desired or that can be desired. There’s nothing toward which you can be motivated. So wherever there is understanding, there is a thing gained in the world. So this is the situation for such a one. He has grasped it. And even this is a paradoxical statement because you can’t literally grasp the Truth. But if we’re to use language at all we can use this. “He has grasped it but no one is interested.” No one is now going to come to him because he happens to understand. People might come to him for other reasons, in the traditional spiritual motivations or any other kind of motivations, but not because of understanding. It’s not that (that) specifically people will come for, they can’t be motivated to it. All their motivations are for something exclusive, and these will always be offended in his presence, denied in his presence, reduced in his presence. But in his presence, another quality is generated to which those who are capable of becoming his devotes become sensitive, and that transcends interest or disinterest or motivation.
“But he is of interest to no one,” is this fundamental sense. “He is fascinating. He is unnoticed.” At the same time, he is fascinating, he is unnoticed. His fascination is the fascination of Truth itself, but Truth as no fascinating quality. So that which should ultimately be the great fascination or absolute desire of all beings is present in such a one and yet is absolutely unnoticed because it has no fundamental value in terms of the world. “Since no one understands, how could they notice him.” Though what he is even though what God is, is perfectly desirable and should ultimately fascinate, since no one understands, since no one has the connection to Truth that is very consciousness, he cannot be noticed. So God is unnoticed. Just as the man of understanding is unnoticed, just as the Guru is essentially unnoticed by the world and has no fundamental value for the world, God is also unnoticed because he has no function. And one who becomes an atheist or even a mediocre believer is just simply one for whom God has no function. So all these people who look out and make considered opinions about everything and say, “There is no God,” haven’t been looking at anything in the first place except their own quality, and their own quality is one in which God has no function. So how could God be discovered to be present in the world if he has no function? Just so, for one who does not understand, the man of understanding has no visibility, or for one who has not even the movement, the subtle capacity to identify such a one.
“Because there is only understanding, he is beloved and no one comes to see him.” Again a form of opposition. “Because there is only understanding,” which is the paradoxical assumption or assertion of the man of understanding in the world, “he is beloved.” He is loved by all beings.
All nature adores him and all beings adore him. This would seem to be the way it must be but, “no one comes to see him.” No one is interested. He is not a fascination to nature. He is not like St. Francis. He doesn’t walk around and birds land on his hand. Animals do not come crawling on their knees when he walks by. People are not healed of their diseases when his shadow falls on them. There may be spontaneous healings but they are part of the paradox of spiritual presence in the world, not of these concrete obvious limitations.
“Because there is only truth, he is likely to become famous.” Because he being very Truth itself, in a world of only Truth, he must be outstanding, he must be valued. “Since there is only joy, he will not be remembered.” If there is only joy or likewise, if there is only Truth, how could he become famous because everything is already true. So if there is only joy, he will also not be remembered because he is only joyful in the midst of a world that is only joy.
“Because you have already understood, you find it necessary to touch his hand. Since you love so much and are not understood, you find it possible to touch his ears.” Now these two sentences are describing forms of intimacy and signs of love, relationship. But these forms of intimacy, of relationship, of love, are not characteristic of the world. They are not characteristic of Narcissus. They are not characteristic of people, of beings who do not understand, who do not live in the fullness of Truth. So again these are paradoxical statements. But the man of understanding feels from this point of view. He assumes life from this point of view. He assumes that this intimacy with devotees is possible. He assumes that there can be disciples. He assumes that others can understand. And it is true. But his power to assume or his power do love from the point of view of his realization is the power that makes understanding possible for others. If he did not assume it, no one would be transformed in his presence. So it’s the humor of the man of understanding that makes it possible for Truth to be communicated through him.
Whereas if he did not assume that fundamental Truth to also be the nature of all other beings and act as if that were so and generated that process in others as if they were his own body, the bodies of other beings were his own body, if he did not operate in that way, this transformation would not occur for others. So it’s only because he assumes this intimacy, it’s only because he brings Satsang into the world that the process of Truth is generated. Otherwise the world would not notice him. Otherwise the world would remain what it is. It would remain Narcissus because he would be like all other beings, acting according to that principle. Whatever he felt within himself or enjoyed within himself, if he acts in all the functional ways according to the ordinary principle of life, there is no transformation possible, because transformation is not occurring ordinary. People are living the form of Narcissus.
“Everything has already died. This is the other world.” These words again just sort of express the paradoxical point of view or vision with which he permeates the world. He permeates the world with his vision, his delight, his understanding and this becomes delight, vision, and understanding in other beings. By his assuming this is the other world, this is, in other words, the heaven, the Divine world, the after-death world, which we have all died and all appeared in heaven sort of thing. By his assuming that point of view, it generates itself, it communicates itself to other beings. So just so, the principle of the Ashram is essentially the same principle whereby the man of understanding operates. It must be a paradoxical presence in the world. In other words, it must not take on the quality of the world which is without humor, which is Narcissistic, separative, cultic. The Ashram must remain free.
More of ‘The Life of Understanding’