Understanding – Adi Da’s First Talk – April 25, 1972


April 25, 1972

Franklin Jones (Adi Da Samraj)

Franklin Jones (Adi Da)

Story of Ashram opening

April 25, 1972

“I am here in order that seekers may understand their ways. Understanding is always the understanding of seeking and not the embrace of any kind of object.”
unpublished 1970

“The way of understanding is founded in the radical truth that is fundamental to existence at any moment, in any condition And it is also the genuine basis for creative life, prior to all the magical efforts toward healing, evolution and the victorious appearance of “spiritual” life.”
The Knee of Listening

(from The Method of the Siddhas, The Dawn Horse Press, 1973. Part One,


On April 25, 1972, the date of this talk, Franklin invited devotees, disciples, students and seekers to approach him for the first time at his Ashram(1) in Los Angeles. A group of about 30 people assembled in a newly renovated storefront at 6913 Melrose Avenue, in a Hollywood business district. As they arrived, they were ushered into a modestly sized hall, passing through the small bookstore that faced the street. There they sat quietly, waiting for the evening’s event to begin. It was on this date that his public work truly began. Before this time, prior to the creation of his Ashram, he taught only a few intimates. But since that time he has been involved in a progressive and open communication and demonstration of the way of Truth, the way of the Siddhas or “Completed Ones,” who come in the forms and activities of God.

Once seated, Avatar Adi Da began to gaze silently around the room. He Radiated simplicity and ease. As He continued to sit, the room became thick with the feeling of Fullness characteristic of His physical Company.

After a few minutes, He closed His eyes and sat quite still. Some of the people in the room also closed their eyes, while others continued gazing at Avatar Adi Da. Everyone showed their respect by remaining silent and attentive.

After about an hour, Avatar Adi Da stretched His body from side to side, left to right, signaling the end of the silence.

Then he spoke in an undertone barely audible to anyone but Himself, “Who will cast the first stone?”

Then, addressing everyone in the room in a clear voice, He asked, “Everyone has understood?” As Avatar Adi Da spoke these words, the room was silent in response. Then a man near the back of the room stood up and declared that he had not understood.


FRANKLIN: Are there any questions? (the people who were in attendance say the first statement of Adi Da was “Who will cast the first stone?”

No one replied, so Franklin spoke again.

FRANKLIN: Everyone has understood?

QUESTION: I haven’t understood. Explain it to me.2

FRANKLIN: Very good. What haven’t you understood?

QUESTION: Well, you said “Did everybody understand?” and everyone seemed to understand but me. Would you explain it to me?

FRANKLIN: Explain what?

QUESTION: Well, you could start with the word “understanding.”

FRANKLIN: Yes. There is a disturbance, dissatisfaction, some sensation that motivates a man to go to a teacher, read a book about philosophy, believe something, or do yoga.3

What we ordinarily think of as spirituality or religion is a way to get free of that sensation, that suffering that motivates us. So all paths, yogic methods, forms of seeking, beliefs, religion, grow out of this sensation, this subtle suffering. Ultimately, all these paths are attempting to get free of that sensation. That is the traditional goal. So all men are seeking, whether or not they are very sophisticated about it, using very specific methods, yoga, philosophy, religion, whatever.

When that whole process of seeking begins to break down, the man no longer quite has the edge of his search left. He begins to suspect himself. He begins to doubt the whole process of his search. Then he is no longer fascinated with his search, his method, his yoga, his religion, his ordinary teacher. His attention begins to turn to this sensation that motivates his entire search.

When a man begins to re cognizee, consciously to know again that subtle motivation, this is what I call “understanding.” When he begins to see again the subtle forms of his own action, which are his suffering, that recognition is understanding. When this becomes absolute, perfect, when there is utterly, absolutely no dilemma, no form in consciousness interpreting the nature of existence to the individual, when there is no contraction, no fundamental suffering, no thing prior to consciousness, this is what I call “radical” understanding. It is only enjoyment.

The traditions call this enjoyment the Self, the Heart,4 God Union, Satori,5 Nirvana,6 Heaven. But it is simply consciousness. There is no thing prior to consciousness. We are not some piece of Divinity seated inside the body, that somehow must get released from the body and go back to its spiritual Home and Source. There is no such entity. The Home and Source is also the very Nature of the “entity.” There is consciousness, and the apparent entity is within consciousness. So that when consciousness begins to enjoy its own state or real nature, even in the midst of conditions, even where there is life, that is true understanding. When, no matter what event appears, there is only the enjoyment of consciousness itself, not transformed or modified by events, when no implication arises on the basis of events to change the nature of consciousness, that is “meditation.” When there is fundamental enjoyment of consciousness, that is called “liberation.” All of that is simply “understanding.”

There is a subtle contraction in the process of man, and it constantly changes the quality of consciousness. It creates the identification of consciousness with the contracted sense. That form, that body, that mentality. And in that act of identification, it differentiates itself from other forms, other beings. Then the rest of life is spent, through exploitation of the movement of desire, to overcome that creation. Through the movement that is desire we seek constantly to create a connection, a flow of force between the contracted identity and everything from which it has differentiated itself. Yoga, religion, spirituality, philosophy, all our strategies, even our simple psychological strategies, our lifestyles, have this same form. They are all attempts to release energy between this contracted, separated one and all from which it is differentiated. Thus, all ordinary activity is founded in this dilemma, this self created contraction.

Traditional spiritual life is a search in this same form. There is dilemma, and there is the spiritual method, which is an attempt to overcome this dilemma. When the individual begins to see again the dilemma that motivates his method, that seeing is understanding. As long as he is simply seeking and has all kinds of motivation, fascination with his search, this is not understanding. This is dilemma itself. But where this dilemma is understood, there is the re cognition of a structure in consciousness, a separation. And when that separation is observed more and more directly, the person begins to see that what he is suffering is not something happening to him, but it is his own action. It is as if he is pinching himself without being aware of it. He is creating a subtle pain, and, worse than the pain, a continuous modification, which is “mind,” which consciousness identifies as itself. The more he observes this, the more his search is abandoned, spontaneously, intelligently. He simply sees his motivation, his actual suffering. He can only live that suffering. It does not move, until conscious life becomes a crisis. Then he sees the entire motivation of life is based on a subtle activity in consciousness. That activity is avoidance, separation, a contraction at the root, the origin, the “place” of consciousness.

In the beginning of this crisis a man only observes the contraction as a sensation, as a sense of dilemma, as a search. But the more directly he observes it, the more clearly he recognizes the action itself. At first he sees the avoidance, the strategy, the life technique. Then he begins to observe this activity in terms of what it is excluding, what it prevents, what is always being eliminated from consciousness and conscious life. That which is always excluded is the condition of relationship.

Ordinarily, a man is unaware of relationship, as relationship. He only lives the drama of separation. But when he becomes directly aware of this contraction, this separation, this subtle form, he observes or enjoys relationship as that condition which is always already the case. Relationship is always already the condition of living consciousness. When this contraction is observed perfectly, radically, there is only relationship, and no obstruction. Then, spontaneously, it is also perfect awareness. That perfect awareness is called the Heart, the Real, what always already is the case.

The Heart is always active, always accomplishing the thing that desire always seeks but never finally realizes. The Heart15 always unqualified relationship, always force, conscious force without obstruction. But the life of desire is always already based on separation. Separation has already occurred in the usual man, so desire tries to heal the sense that arises as a consequence of that separation. But there is no ultimate success by the means of desire, even “spiritual” forms of desire. There may be temporary releases, fascinations, but desire never radically escapes its own dilemma. This is because it does not deal with the dilemma. The search is concerned only with desire and the objects of desire. But beneath that is this subtle contraction.

Therefore, the Heart is always, already the absolute continuum, the flow of power, without obstructions. It is always already like desire fully satisfied, because the flow is always already accomplished. Always already accomplished, not the result of any motivated action.

The great Siddhas,7 men of radical understanding, are those who live consciously as the Heart. They function as the Heart for living beings. And that function is simply relation ship, unobstructed flow. The pressure of the presence of such a one stimulates and intensifies the flow of force in living beings. All obstructions tend to fall away in the presence of this force. Where it moves there is either surrender or flight in its path. The Siddhas communicate the living Force of Reality. They live it to living beings. They simply live the natural state of enjoyment with other beings. And those who stay to live in friendship with the man of understanding tend also to understand.

QUESTION: Franklin, I have to go, but I have one more question. You said the Siddhas live as the heart. What about the mind? Do they live as the mind also?

FRANKLIN: What is it?

QUESTION: Do they live as the mind as well? It is connected with the heart.

FRANKLIN: What mind?

QUESTION: What mind? The mind that they exist in. There is only one mind.

FRANKLIN: There is? Which?

QUESTION: Of course their brains are functioning too. Right?



FRANKLIN: What is the point you are trying to make?

QUESTION Well, I asked you the question about the mind.

FRANKLIN: Yes. What mind?

QUESTION: What mind?

FRANKLIN: The brain?

QUESTION: Yes, the brain.

FRANKLIN: Ah, well that is something very specific. You are talking about the brain, or the “One Mind”?

QUESTION: Well, there is only one mind, of course.

FRANKLIN: You are talking about the mind now, and not about the brain?

QUESTION: Well, I was asking you what is the relationship between the two. Between the mind, the brain and the heart.

FRANKLIN: You are talking about the physical heart?

QUESTION: Not necessarily.

FRANKLIN: Well, which?

QUESTION: You can answer whichever way you like.

FRANKLIN: I do not have need for the answer. What specifically are you asking?

QUESTION: Well, actually you answered me, because I wanted to see what you wanted to say.

FRANKLIN: No, that is not what you wanted to see. Don’t play games. I am not here to entertain. All these little dramas you are playing have no place. I have no interest in them, and neither have you. I am not here to “lay something on” to you. I am not concerned with that. If you want to discuss something with me for a real purpose, that is something else. But if you want to play at polemics, and idle cleverness

QUESTION: That’s not what I want.

FRANKLIN: No, no. That is what you want.

QUESTION: Do you think that is what I am trying to do?


QUESTION: Why do you think that?

FRANKLIN: What is all of that? (pointing to his expression)

QUESTION: What is what?

FRANKLIN: What has all of that (pointing to his expression) got to do with anything, hm? You are very upset. What are you upset about?

QUESTION: I’m not upset at all.

FRANKLIN: Yes you are, my friend. (to another) Does he look upset to you?

ANOTHER: Yes. I recognize that. (to the questioner) You know what that is? It is fear stone cold fear.

FRANKLIN: Something here is upsetting you. I would like to talk about that. That would be worth talking about.

QUESTION: I don’t feel upset.

FRANKLIN: You don’t feel the least upset?


FRANKLIN: Very good.

QUESTION: If what you say of me were true, why would I have come here tonight?

FRANKLIN: I think you have good reasons for being here, but I don’t think that is what we are dealing with at the moment. Before we can deal with your good reasons for being here, you must overcome the social dilemma it represents to you. Yes? The whole spiritual life or thinking associated with spiritual life which you bring here is perhaps somewhat threatened. Well, that is fine. But we have to get beyond simply being threatened by one another. And before we can get beyond that, it must be acknowledged. The obviousness of it must be acknowledged. The obviousness of our strategy, our cleverness, our inability to be direct, to love. We must acknowledge this creation of artifices. All of that must be understood. If you have not understood that, what is there to defend? I could sit here and have a discussion with you about the mind, the brain, the heart. But what does all of that have to do with anything? Hm? We could talk about the shape of clouds. But what is going on? What is this sensation, this feeling that you have, that everyone has?

QUESTION: What sensation do you speak of? I am not sure what you mean.

FRANKLIN: Exactly. What is that sensation that you have at this moment? Your awareness?

QUESTION: I am sorry, I don’t understand what you are talking about. You are saying awareness is a sensation, right now?

FRANKLIN: What exactly is the nature of your awareness at this moment?

QUESTION: I don’t know how to answer that. But I know it exists, I am aware of it.

FRANKLIN: Of what?


My awareness.

FRANKLIN: You’re aware of your awareness?


And is it always truth, sublimity, and beauty?

It just is, brother, it just is!



Then why are you so uncomfortable?

QUESTION: You keep seeing that, so there must be something.

FRANKLIN: What is this attitude that you are using at this moment? I am not “concerned” with it, you see. I don’t want to put you down for it. But I want to get to it, because it is the primary quality in all your comments to me. Hm? You are aware of it. How you use your body, your eyebrows, the tone of voice, the way you are expressing yourself.

QUESTION: What is wrong with that?

FRANKLIN: I am not saying there is anything wrong with it.

QUESTION: Well then, why are you making any mention of it?

FRANKLIN: Because you are using it to communicate to me. It is your communication.

QUESTION: Well, so what?

FRANKLIN: What is this attitude? What is that? That is an attitude, isn’t it?

QUESTION: Well, obviously it’s me.

FRANKLIN: What is the purpose of it? What are you doing with it? What is its nature? You have communicated in other ways, at other times. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry.


FRANKLIN: All right. You are not laughing or crying now. You are doing this! What is it you are doing?

QUESTION: I am in the process of communicating with you.

FRANKLIN: Why in this particular form?

QUESTION: Because that is the form I choose to use.

FRANKLIN: Yes. And it does not have any resistance in it at all?

QUESTION: Well, it has a resistance. Yes, it has. I feel that there is a lack of communication going on.

FRANKLIN: OK. That is what I am talking about.

QUESTION: When I’m communicating with somebody or they are trying to communicate with me, if I feel there is a lack, sure I feel a resistance.

FRANKLIN: Exactly. That is what I am feeling.

QUESTION: You feel it too, huh?

FRANKLIN: Yes. And if there was simple, direct communication between us, it would be unnecessary for you to have that sensation and to communicate it to me in the way you now feel you must. But what is actually coming through is that fear, that resistance, that upset about the nature of this communication. And that is exactly what I have been talking about tonight. It is exactly that contraction, that resistance, that formation of awareness that is suffering. Behind that are all the thoughts, illusions, memories, ex periences, searches. But that contraction or resistance is always first. That is always the subtle structure we are living. Wherever we go, wherever we are, it is that subtle sense, that subtle resistance, that subtle discomfort, that subtle un pleasantness, failure of love, of energy, of presence. And that is exactly the thing I am talking about. And this present sensation of which you have become aware is the quality by which it is always experienced. It may also be very elaborate. It can take on all kinds of forms, but this present sensation is the “contraction” I am talking about. It is not unique to you. I just happen to feel it functioning this way at this moment in you. But you are no different from me or from anyone else. Everyone’s suffering the same tendency and activity. And its results are always the same. Everyone is suffering in exactly the same way. There are only different life methods, styles, complex experiences, whatever. But the essential structure is common to us all.

There is first the periodic awareness of that sensation, then the awareness of it as a continuous experience, then the observation of its actual structure, the knowing of it all as one’s own activity, a deliberate, present activity that is our suffering, that is our illusion. The final penetration of that present, deliberate activity is what I have called under standing. It is simply the penetration of that process which structures all conscious events, all of your experience. And the primary, even the most obvious effect, of this subtle activity of suffering is the destruction of the consciousness of relationship.

That is exactly the way it was functioning between us in the last few minutes. There was the sense of an obstruction in this relationship. But when it is not there, when the contraction does not take place, when it is not meditated upon, when it is no longer a matter of concern, when there is simply this unobstructed path, there is no dilemma. Then there is no one superior to the other, no problem, no jealousy, no distinction. There is only enjoyment. And where life is constant as that enjoyment, there is the Infinity of Liberation, the Cosmic Consciousness of Truth, the Siddhi8 of the Real. But it is always simply that basic enjoyment, that unobstructed, spontaneous, moment to moment existence as relationship. It is what is called “love.” It is simply the force of the Heart, the Real, which is unobstructed, unqualified existence. When there is no resistance, no contraction, no separation, there is just this ease of pleasure in one another. And where there is that ease of pleasure, there is no problem. Give it the names if you like. It is simply our natural state.

What I call the Heart is consciousness. It is called Atman, the very Self or Nature of the apparent individual. It is not a separate organ or a separate faculty. It is identical to what is called Brahman, the formless, absolute, omnipresent Divine Reality. It is very consciousness, absolute bliss, unqualified existence. It is intuition of unspeakable God. Anything secondary that we could call “mind,” body or brain, any function at all is contained within the “Heart” like an event in a universe. Within that universe is the appearance of living beings. Naturally, if you speak of the physical body, or the psycho physical entity, there is the physical heart, the physical brain, and many other functions, physical ones and subtle ones. But all of these are contained in that perfect consciousness, that unobstructed nature, the Heart. From this “point of view” there is no dilemma in the appearance of things, no misunderstanding of it, no threat. All of this is a form of enjoyment.

It is common for those who constantly live in the obstructed state to possess an elaborate, dramatic concept ualization of things. But that conceptualization of things is not equivalent to things themselves. It is simply a display of modifications of energy, subtle internal energy, your own functioning mind. It is only a structure, a figure, an imposition, a distraction, and its root is this contraction of which I speak. It is utterly beside the point whether my conceptualization of things is bigger than yours, whether it has all seven parts in it while yours has only four. It is only that we have a different traditional structure, different theatre. It doesn’t make any difference what these minds contain. It is not merely the saint who can understand. Every fool can understand. It doesn’t make any difference what is inside. It all has to go. Because it is this contraction, this obstruction, this self containment that every man is suffering.

When the obstruction is no longer the force that is patterning a man’s state, then it becomes possible for him to enjoy the very state of things, the real structure of things, directly, prior to conceptualization and the ordinary drama of his life. From that point of view, which is already free and true, perhaps something meaningful can be said about the structure of things, but, from this very point of view, nothing is gained or lost by the existence of the manifest structure of worlds or the description of it. If the principle of suffering is released, something can be said, but the speech is not necessary.

A person came to Bodhidharma9 and said something about his “mind” that is similar to your remarks. He sat in the presence of Bodhidharma, trying to attract his attention. He did this for a long time, without success, so that, finally, he was moved to hack off his arm, which he presented to Bodhidharma. You must have heard the story. He held this arm up to Bodhidharma, who, at last, turned to him. He was willing to have a brief discussion. But he wasn’t upset, excited, or particularly interested in the bleeding and mortal condition of this seeker. The person wanted to know something about his mind. He wanted to be liberated from his perpetual disturbance of mind. Bodhidharma said, “Show me your mind.” Show me this mind that is upset, that you want to understand, that you claim to possess. According to tradition, that was sufficient to enlighten the man. He saw that what he was upset with, what he was suffering or owning, had no tangible existence. There was not in fact any “thing” that he was suffering or owning. He was simply obsessed. His suffering and his “mind” were present self creations. All Bodhidharma did, or served to do, was to bring about this spontaneous re cognition of the nature of that which the man was presenting all the time as himself, as his state. So, there was this sudden turnabout.

Traditions are filled with such meetings between questioners or seekers and their teachers. It is always the same story. The guy has some very elaborate search going on in him, some very elaborate structure of mind that he always presents and that he wants to defend or overcome. But, whatever his number or his game, the usual man always communicates one thing to others. It is his own mind form, his own state. It is always this we present to one another and to life. By the performance of his own state a man destines himself to certain reactions of life, certain experiences. His state also becomes his action and his destiny. True “spiritual life” is always that process whereby the present and chronic modification of consciousness, this compulsive state, this action that becomes dilemma, seeking and suffering is undermined in understanding. True “religion” is the crisis of consciousness in which unconsciousness is undermined. It is the crisis of our ordinary, common state, where it is utterly turned about, undermined. That is the essential event to which all traditions try to bring men, regardless of the lore and technique peculiar to the time and place~ It is always a crisis. It is not some self possessed artifice. It is not a defense of the person’s limited condition. It is where all of this is utterly destroyed. The Christian tradition talks about “spirit ual death” as the basic event. It is a sacrifice, a cross. In the East it is the crisis of satori, or the difficult, long term of sadhana,10 or self purifying action. But it is always the crisis, turnabout, obliteration of that form in which the person is helplessly alive. And if that has not taken place, there is no spirituality, but there is simply the same thing that always was, the same obsession with forms, the same suffering, this disability, dilemma, disappointment, or whatever emotional quality is manifest in the individual case.

When there is no defense left, when the bottom falls out, when there is nothing to stand on, that is “liberation.” As long as there is something left to defend, something with which to resist, as long as there is something still left to die, the same state persists, the same suffering, the same search. When it is all “dead,” when the greatly feared event has already occurred, then there is no longer the thread of seeking or the defense of its hidden dilemma.

The kind of resistance we discussed in relation to the questioner who opened this discussion is exactly the thing that everyone brings to the teacher. The drama between the disciple and the teacher is always the hour to hour confrontation with that condition. It is not special in anyone’s case. It is the very thing that creates the spiritual drama. It is the very thing that is dealt with throughout spiritual life, in always more subtle forms. There is no particular enjoyment in it. There is no special honor in it or any special dues that come across because you deal with this suffering and resistance. The teacher must always deal with the state that people bring to him. And that state is never radically free. The new disciple is never a form of enjoyment. He is not blissful. He is not Truth. The teacher must function with communicated obstructions consciously and deliberately. He must not forget the suffering and dilemma of his disciple. Therefore, he may not simply console and fascinate his disciple with promises, words and smiling notions. He must constantly deal with the obstruction in his disciple, until his disciple is no longer suffering that. But in order for him to no longer be suffering that, there must be a crisis, a difficult confrontation. And it is always absolutely difficult. Even between the teacher and the calmest, most apparently loving devotee there is that obstruction. It is only on the surface, in the personal strategy, that the new disciple appears to be calm and loving. But he is also bound up with his suffering. Some appear to be very loving and capable of service. Others appear very resistive and angry. There is no distinction. It is just a difference of qualities, but essentially the same event is going on. The same thing is brought to the teacher in every case. The same thing has to be lived by the teacher in every case. Therefore, from the human point of view, there is no great privilege or pleasure in performing the teaching function for people. It is simply that the Heart functions that way. Always, spontaneously, it moves into relationship. It moves through the structures of consciousness. It flows through. It breaks do wn the obstructions. The Heart is always already enjoyment.

The person in whom this whole strategy has broken down looks like a pane of glass. There is no ‘peculiarity” about him, no resistance. That whole structure of force in which he lives is open. But when we meet the usual man, we immediately experience the limitation to life that he will accept or demand in our relationship to him. And this tends to stimulate, by reaction, our own limitation. So everybody complains about how ordinary experience with people is unsatisfying. But when that contraction just opens a little, the force of delight and of love begins to flo w, and the obstructions begin to break down, until, finally, the person is shattered. At last, the whole ordinary form of his existence is absolutely destroyed. He no longer lives from the point of view of this contraction and all of the assumptions about life that it requires. His own consciousness falls out of the usual form, and the point of view of consciousness in which he lives is that of the Self, the Heart, the radical intuition of Reality or God. He no longer contains the least trace of a separate self sense. It doesn’t even tend to arise. And yet, the apparent functions of life remain.

Those who live in genuine spiritual community have value for others who come into contact with them. They will only allow people to live as the Heart, to function in relationship with the Force of the Heart. They will not indulge a person’s strategy. They will provoke the crisis of his suffering.

(At this point the young man who had been questioning Franklin got up to leave. He had obviously felt quite antagonistic toward Franklin. It was not clear why he felt it was necessary to assume a superior manner, but his contempt as well as his insecurity had been made plain to all. After he left, many of those present expressed their relief with laughter and criticism, but Franklin continued to remind them that the drama they had just witnessed was a kind of exaggerated version of the process that is enacted between the teacher and every one of his disciples.)

FRANKLIN: It is always the same. Every one is like that. He wasn’t extraordinary. He just played the obvious drama that he played. He was good. I appreciated his questions. It was good that something that dramatic or emotional could take place. You should read the documents which record the history and teaching in the Ashrams of various teachers, such as Ramana Maharshi,11 or Sri Ramakrishna.12 It is always the same thing. This Ashram is not going to be any different.

QUESTION: Would you please speak about this contraction, and ho w the form of enquiry you describe in The Knee of Listening passes beyond all the forms of separation?

FRANKLIN: A lot of words could be used. The traditions describe different “knots” that are opened, and the goal of spiritual life is often said to be the opening of these various knots. There is a knot in the navel, a knot in the heart, and a knot in the head. There are many knots, but these are perhaps the primary regions discussed in the traditions. What they are really talking about are functional forms of contraction in the organic and subtle processes of life. The chakras or subtle centers through which the life force moves are like the lens of a camera. When they are contracted and closed, no force flows. If there is a force trying to make them open, the resistance of the contraction creates pain, heat, and all the various yogic manifestations, many of which are described in The Knee of Listening. As a living center of consciousness opens a little bit more, then the mind begins to get a little “flowery.” So there are these little visionary things, and perceptions and insights. When it is completely open, there is just the intuitive force of consciousness and bliss. Then the life force moves on, until it hits the next obstruction. The life force is ultimately the force of the very Heart, the God life, the Power of Reality, moving through the various centers of life, which are chronically obstructed or contracted. And the various experiences associated with the release of these centers are called the process of yoga or spiritual life. But what is ultimately the case is not all of these experiences. They just take place because there are obstructions. If there are no obstructions, there is only absolute consciousness, no dilemma, nothing to be ac complished. There is no body in which to accomplish anything. Therefore, one in whom understanding and enquiry are perfected passes from limited and even extraordinary forms of knowledge and experience into the intuitive and spontaneous life of Reality or God.

QUESTION: Is the activity of the mind and thought an obstruction?

FRANKLIN: What is your experience?

QUESTION: My experience is that in spite of what I will or wish, I have lots of strange thoughts.

FRANKLIN: If you close the eyes meditatively, you turn yourself mainly to concentration on mind forms. But if your eyes are open, there are people, functional demands and the whole cosmic event. And while you are sitting there with your eyes open, you will become aware that all of this thought is also going on. You will begin to feel, almost see, how thought slides between you and all contact with the moving world. Thought is an actual, solid obstruction. It is a form of matter, a modification of energy. What we call our mind is wave lengths of force, functioning, taking on forms, through the subtle processes of electrical interchange. So when you have a thought, you have modified the energy flowing through the brain regions. In other words, you have contracted it, and you are always concentrating on that contraction. If you pinch your arm, attention centers at the point of pain. If you have a thought, attention centers at the point of thought. Whenever there is distraction by a particular entity, form, function, or whatever, there is loss of direct awareness, of relationship. When there is concentra tion, everything else is excluded. The “ego” is just another form of concentration, of distraction. In the case of the ego, the distraction is not a particular thought, but the separate self sense that all contraction generates. The ego is an activity, not an entity. The ego is the activity of avoidance, the avoidance of relationship.

Therefore, any thought, any function, anything that creates form, that appears as form, that seems form, is produced by concentration or contraction. Thus, apart from understanding, all processes, even life itself, tend to become an obstruction. The root of it all is called the “ego,” but it is actually contraction, in countless forms, endured without consciousness. The absence of consciousness is the key, not the acts of concentration themselves (which are only more or less functional). Apart from consciousness, functional contraction tends to become the assumed condition of life. Unconscious contraction creates separation, which manifests as identification, or the sense of separate self.

The root of spirituality is not some activity like desire that seeks to get you to the super Object. Genuine spirituality is understanding of the whole process of motivation. It is to recognize the root of it, this contraction, this separation. When you no longer have any more options, when you have worn yourself out doing your number, and you have tried all the trips and methods, paths and lifestyles, strategies and places to go, all the forms of concentration, whatever they are, then all of that begins to break down. You discover that you just don’t have the jazz left to really carry it on any more. You find yourself more depressed, just a little bit too much depressed to meditate or to hunt for sex. You just don’t have the jazz, the necessary fire of motivation. Then upsetness begins to overwhelm you. The crisis begins to come on. You don’t really have a path anymore. You may talk a lot about it, feel a lot about it. It remains a part of your mind, but you don’t really have a path any longer. That is really the most hopeful sign. The guy is beginning to rot! When fruit begins to rot, then it falls with seed into the earth. But as long as a man is very righteous, as long as he has got his trip, lie is not ripe. It is only when the trip begins to kick him in the face that he begins to soften up, bruise a little bit, feel his fear, his suffering, his dilemma, this constant upset of all our mortality.

We are all going to die. We are all going to lose this awareness, this enjoyment. I can’t endure that dilemma from day to day. From the moment I was born, that upset me. I wasn’t the least interested in tolerating moment to moment existence as that kind of suffering. Life wasn’t worth the involvement if its summation had to be death, zero. What difference does it make ho w turned on I can get if I must fall out the bottom, arbitrarily. Everything is wonderful today. But you wake up tomorro w and the world of lovely friends is delivered to you dead, the insane parcels of everything disappearing. So all righteousness, all ordinary spirituality or the search for consolation is nonsense. It is a refusal. It is unreal.

The usual perception is that of the agonizing fact of identification, the act that is ego, this refusal of one another, this lovelessness, and this living craziness. And all of your ordinary processes are bound up with that craziness, until you begin to get sick of it. Then you are no longer talking about your ‘trip,” your yoga, how groovy it is and how you’re going to get there, everything is so soul beautiful, and all this crap. You will become obsessed with your darkness, your heaviness. You will try to feel good, but you know you feel lousy. You really feel upset. It is really bad, it is really an annoyance. You are only upset, so what difference does the search make? If you go through that long enough, you begin really to get upset, and your meditation becomes concentration on your upset. Whereas before you were al ways doing your number to avoid that upset, now you can’t do anything but be upset. And while you are meditating on your upsetness, you happen to get involved here, in this Ashram, and you get even more and more upset all the time. You come to me, and I make you more upset. You think you are supposed to be having a very groovy spiritual experience here, becoming more and more turned on. But when you come around, people yell at you. They call your attention to your crazy number. You are trying to do your best, but everybody is hitting you over the head. All such experience is very aggravating, but it begins to reinforce the real meditation that has now started to go on in you. It is this crisis, this falling apart, this rot. And it will persist, until you begin to observe, somehow, this activity of yours.

When you begin to see what you are doing, when you begin to re cognize it, you will see it first of all in very direct, human terms. You will see it in the simple, human, practical things that you do. Later, you will begin to see it in subtler ways. You will observe the whole quality of your mind, your ordinary activity, your game, the drama, the event that is always going on, until you begin to see it most precisely and in a ‘cry subtle way. When you see it absolutely, that is radical understanding. When you see the thing itself, the simple thing, that is the end of it. You fall apart. You scream, or you can t say anything, but it just ends. All of a sudden the whole process is not going on anymore. And this apparent event, unlike all other apparent forms of action in the manifest worlds, is not follo wed by a re action.

In The Knee of Listening I have described this “event” in my own case. When there was this simple, radical turnabout, there was nothing about it that would have appeared remarkable to anyone who might have observed me. I didn’t smile. I didn’t feel high. There was no reaction to that event, because there wasn’t anything left over of the thing that now was thro wn a way. There was no thing to which I could react. There was no one to react, to feel good about it, happy about it. There was no peculiar emotion to the event itself. The Heart was all. Its quality became more and more apparent. There was a preliminary period of that fundamental enjoyment which lasted for perhaps several months. During that time there was no longer this whole complex life in dilemma, but I didn’t really function in any way different than before. I didn’t experience any comparative impression about the event. I didn’t really “see” or interpret it clearly and fully for a good period of time, even though I consciously enjoyed a state that was untouched, unqualified by any event or circumstance, which would seem remarkable in itself. But I hadn’t begun to function as it in relation to manifest life. Only when I did so, and then only gradually, was I able to estimate and know my o wn event. It was as if I had walked through myself. Such a state is perfectly spontaneous. It has no way of watching itself. It has no way to internalize or structure itself. It is Divine madness. The Self, the Heart is perfect madness. There is not a jot of form within it. There is no thing. No thing has happened. There is not a single movement in consciousness. And that is its blissfulness. It was not the fact that certain functions of internal life had been stimulated. It was peculiarly free of vision, movement, and all the blissful phenomena characteristic of the activities of yoga shakti13 And when such phenomena did happen to arise, they were of another kind, or they were kno. wn from a new point of view. Their qualities had become cosmic and universal rather than yogic or personal in nature. Until there is only God, the living One.

The mind acts as an obstruction. When the process of understanding begins in you, you will enquire of yourself as I have described in The Knee of Listening. You will enquire of the mind, you will enquire in this moment of thinking, and you will understand it. When consciousness moves into relationship, the mind falls away. The mind is replaced by a form of intensity. The more that simple intensity is enjoyed as existence, the less obtrusive the mind becomes. Even though it continues to arise, it becomes less and less obtrusive. You notice it less. Now you think you are the mind. You are thinking, thinking. But it is actually something that is arising in consciousness. It is only a modification of your own nature. The man of understanding simply does not notice the mind in the usual way. It is not that he has quieted his mind. He is not his mind. There is no one there to be the mind. The “mind” is simply one of the functions that spontaneously arise. But if you identify with it, then you have already separated yourself. Only when that whole structure of the separate self is undermined by radical perception of its root does thought resume its natural state.

Ramana Maharshi advised seekers to find out who it is that asks the question, thinks the thought, whatever. The “who” is not an entity. When Maharshi spoke, he used the symbology and language of Advaita Vedanta, the classic monistic or “only One Reality” school of Hindu philosophy. The imagery of this way of describing the process of Truth deals in statics, things in space. So there is the ego, the objectified, solidified self. But I speak more in terms of process or movement. I speak in terms of concepts of experience with which the modern mind is more familiar and which is more appropriate in this time and place. I do not speak of “the ego” as an object within a conceptual universe of objects, because we think in terms of process, energy. Therefore, the concept of the static ego is not terribly useful. It doesn’t communicate our actual experience. To say seek the “I,” find out who the “I” is, is not terribly meaningful, because we don’t approach the Conscious Nature from the mental structure assumed by that question. But we all are dealing with activity, with process, movement. Therefore, what is called “the ego” in the traditions is more appropri ately and conclusively re cognized by us to be an activity. And understanding is that re cognition, that direct seeing of the fundamental and always present activity that is our suffering, ignorance, distraction, motivation and dilemma. When this activity is thus known again, there is spontaneous and unqualified enjoyment of what it excludes, that which is always already the case, always already there.

The process I describe as understanding is ultimately the same that Maharshi was describing. The same state or enjoyment is being communicated and served. It is the same Force of Truth. It is all absolutely the same. The thing is that, since we are all presently existing, we cannot simply and naively embrace the fixtures that we have inherited. There must be conscious re cognition of our present condition. Therefore, the old concepts and methods are simply not useful, even though they may be pleasant and consoling. There must be an absolute penetration of the form of life. Thus, it must be approached within the living, present structure in which it is suffered and entertained.

QUESTION: On this basis, how does formal meditation stand? You don’t seem to think that formal meditation has much great benefit.

FRANKLIN: If you understand what you call your formal meditation, that understanding is meditation. The understanding of your activity is meditation. If you have an inclination to do some particular kind of sitting, concentrating, yoga method, whatever, all of that is an activity that you are already tending to do. The point is not whether to do that or not. The point is the understanding of that whole ordinary motivation, the process in this moment that is producing this particular tendency that is “formal meditation.” Intelligence is the fundamental meditation. Consciousness is itself meditation. The usual man is always already seeking, so it is not a matter of doing or not doing some particular kind of motivated search. We are always already seeking, whether at this moment we are doing it in the form of a yogic technique, or the next moment we are doing it in the form of a sly glance at somebody as we pass them in the street. We are always already doing it, so it is not the point whether we should do a particular form of it or not. There is simply and always the process of our own action. When there is the engagement of action by real, unmotivated intelligence, understanding begins to develop as a spontaneous, real process in consciousness. As this process of intelligence matures, it tends to appear to become a little more formal, so that perhaps a man actually sits down, actually seems to meditate for a half hour, an hour, or even longer periods. He may appear to everyone else as if he is doing what they recognize to be formal or, more properly, motivated meditation. But that is not in fact what he is doing. He is living consciousness. It is just that, from a practical point of view, if the body is relaxed, sitting in a natural pose in which its fluids and energies can move freely, such is an appropriate manner in which to enjoy the critical activity of real intelligence. Even so, the same intelligence can be active under any conditions, formal or random and circumstantial. There is simply the endless return to this re cognition of our own activity. The gathering of our Ashram, our conversation together, our sitting together, the reading or study we do, our life with one another, everything we are doing constantly reawakens this re cognition in some form or other, through crises, endurance of the resistance of our suffering, whatever. As we pass through ordinary life in this way, and we see this same quality, always this same disturbance, that seeing, that understanding, which is to be no longer trapped in the unconscious process of action, is meditation. And such meditation is the necessary foundation of all spiritual activity, the life of Truth.

The form that arises in consciousness at any moment is the avoidance of relationship. It is the obstruction. The whole quality that arises in consciousness, which appears as forms of body sense, awareness of life, thought, the whole spontaneous event of waking, dreaming and deep sleep is, in itself, the avoidance of relationship in the usual man. Whatever arises is a manifestation of this same process. Once you begin to re cognize it, once you catch the little pieces that are prominent, then you begin to see yourself fully. Understanding begins in that way, in very practical observa tion, in the real observation of something that is obviously and practically a hindrance, an avoidance of the condition of relationship. When real observation of that kind has begun in you, this intelligence that is understanding has a practical basis. To that degree, you are able to respond with the intelligence of understanding to the events that arise for you. The more there is of this re cognition, of this practical re cognition, the more understanding has become your intelligence. At the point when you really begin to see the all embracing technique and strategy of life, when you really begin to see the structure of your suffering, at that point the form of enquiry I have recommended in The Knee of Listening becomes a natural extension of consciousness. And it may appear to be used in a very formal way, but its use is rooted in understanding itself. Genuine enquiry in the form “Avoiding relationship?” is utterly dependent on prior understanding. Without understanding enquiry is just like anything else. It is just a question in the head. It is just another preference. And understanding itself depends on Satsang,14 the company and conditions generated by the Siddha Guru,15 one who lives Truth in the world.


People do in fact tend to use the enquiry as a “method.” They may read about it, or they may even have begun to engage themselves in the preliminary stages of life in the Ashram, and they begin to “meditate” by using this form of enquiry or some other form of looking at themselves. But in such cases, enquiry is always used in the spirit of method and seeking. Everything tends to become the search, until understanding or real intelligence is alive. But even though such people are going on with all of that, still doing their number, if they are involved in the conditions of this work, everything will eventually break down. If only a person has the endurance for it, or the need for it, the looseness for it, or only the inability to go out and play his game again, whatever it is. Some such inner quality must keep a man or woman in place, so this work can take hold in them. And the highest or most potent inner quality is faith, devotion and surrender to Guru.


1. An Ashram is a place where a Spiritual Master gathers the. community of his devotees and disciples in order to live with them, instruct them, and communicate the divine force of his Presence.

2. The questioner in this case is a seeker, relatively unfamiliar with Franklin’s teaching or the quality of his approach to individuals, particularly to those who, while remaining enamored of themselves, like Narcissus, pot on the masks of spiritual awareness.

3. Yoga is a general term for the various ways of consciously functioning in union with the Divine Reality. The term commonly refers to the Hindu descriptions of these ways.

4 You will hear Franklin using this term throughout these talks, and it should become progressively clear what is meant by it. It is recommended that you also read The Knee of Listening for a full understanding of this key symbol of Franklin’s work. In general, the term signifies the unqualified ground and power of being and of all manifestation. The man of understanding is conscious as and from this ‘ground,” this foundation position and capacity. The Heart is perfectly thought free. The man of understanding is mindless, not because he suppresses thought, hut his understanding of all that arises has become re cognition or knowing again of thought itself, so that mind, or its principle, has fallen in the Heart. Even so, he continues, paradoxically, to function as any ordinary man.

5 Satori is the Japanese ‘Zen” Buddhist term for the experience of enlighten ment or sudden awakening to the Nature of self and world.

6 Nirvana is a classical Buddhist term for the extinction or quenching of all qualities of suffering, of ego, of birth and death. Entry into the transcendent realm of unqualified Reality.

7 Siddha means a perfectly fulfilled or accomplished one, a completed uric. It is used to refer to the Great Souls or Master Teachers who live perfectly in God while they arc also active in the paradoxical and spontaneous functions of the Divine in the created worlds.

8. A siddhi is a form of yogic accomplishment. an extraordinary or subtle functional ability. The ‘Siddhi of the Real” is the Mahasiddhi, the great, spontaneous Perfect Consciousness, Activity and Presence of the Siddha, or one whose understanding is Perfect.

9. A Patriarch of the Ch’an or Zen Buddhist tradition, who brought the teaching to China from India in the 6th century A.D.

10. Right or true action, action appropriate to real or spiritual life. It commonly refers to spiritual practices directed toward the goal of spiritual attainment. Franklin uses the term without the implication of a goal. He intends it to mean appropriate action, which is generated where Truth is already the case, not where it is sought.

11. Ramana Maharshi was a spontaneously Self realized Sage of modern India. He abandoned the gross physical body in 1950.

12 Sri Ramakrishna was a great devotee of God who flourished in the mid 19th century and passed on in 1886.

13 Yoga shakti is the power, energy or living force that is awakened in the yogi spontaneously or through the agency of the spiritual Master. This internal energy produces a wide range of phenomena in the body. mind and subtle faculties of the adept.

14. Satsang literally means true or right relationship. It is commonly used to refer to the practice of spending time in the company of holy or wise persons. One can also enjoy Satsang with a holy place, a venerated image, the burial shrine of a saint, or with the Deity. Franklin uses the term in its fullest sense, to signify the very relationship between a genuine Siddha and his devotee. That relationship is seen to he an all inclusive condition. effective at every level of life and consciousness.

15. Guru is a term properly used to refer to one who functions as a genuine spiritual Master. The Siddha Guru is a perfect Master, a Siddha who functions as Guru for others, who is himself the very Truth that is awakened in the disciple. This Siddha Guru is what Franklin generally means to indicate in his use of the simple term “Guru”.

The Method of the Siddhas