By Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo
Adyashanti, the man, the human and the process of his enlightenment
Born as Steven Gray, Adyashanti studied Zen for 14 years under the guidance of his Zen teacher Arvis Joen Justi. Adyashanti was regularly sent by Arvis to Zen sesshins where he also studied under Jakusho Kwong Roshi of the San Francisco Zen Centre. At the age of 25 he began experiencing a series of transformative spiritual awakenings. In 1996, around six years later, he was invited to teach by Arvis Joen Justi.
He was born to a great family with two sisters, one older and one younger than he. His parents were good people. His childhood was extraordinarily happy. Although his family was not particularly religious, one of his grandparents was very spiritual, and thus spirituality and religion were often part of the discussion. As a child he did not partake of any of the talks, but he merely listened with fascination. So there was this early attraction to spirituality and religion.
As a child he used to experience some mystical phenomena. A ball of white light used to visit him at the end of his bed. He found it intriguing but not unusual. He would find himself merging with his dresser drawer. Again, he found it pleasurable and intriguing but not unusual.
During his teens, ‘in one of those days’, he would wake up and find that everything that he sensed was one thing. And sometimes it felt like something different was looking through his eyes. This mysterious something was very ancient and eternal. He had to be careful not to look at people too closely, as this power through his eyes would shock the people he was looking at. The other people became afraid and looked away. This phenomenon would last one to three days, during which he felt eternal and timeless. These episodes would occur three to five times a year. He never talked to his parents or teachers about them.
At one time a thought would push a child aside in the playground. It felt like his eyes were that of eternity: it was ancient and yet young and innocent. This was really startling and it lasted for a day. He was about eight or nine years old then. The experiences were foretastes of awakening, glimpses of certain aspects of awakening.
He was a loner and quite different from other children, although he played on the bars and always had a few friends. When he was in grade school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He could not concentrate very well, but had a lot of energy. His mother had a great sense of humour. She used to tell him that the whole family was weird, and being weird is wonderful.
When he was about 19 years old, he read a Zen book about enlightenment. This turned him on like a light bulb. This was because he had a great-great aunt who was very psychic and was able to astral travel. She was spiritually awake and knew when people were to die or if they have died. Adyashanti tried to astral travel and failed. However, in the endeavour to do out of body experience, he had to sit in meditation. And in that meditation he touched on something very fascinating. This led him to start reading books on the subject. Within a few weeks of meditating, he woke up one morning to realize that his life was not his. His life belonged to this enlightenment state. Wherever it wants to go or to lead him, he had no choice. From pursuing something, that something had taken over him and it was in control. And this will continue for the rest of his life. It was a little frightening and yet exciting. That was the moment his life turned and he did not try to escape suffering. Although he had difficult moments in his life like everybody else, his main concern was what does enlightenment to do with truth or ultimate reality.
He went to college for a while, and ended up at a community college for five or six years. He first tried psychotherapy, but gave up the idea of being a psychologist. Then he tried sociology, but gave it up after a few classes. Then he took up an Eastern religious class, but also found that it was not it. Although he was good in philosophy, he just bumbled around for five or six years and then stopped going to community college. This is when he was 24 years old: he was working in a bicycle shop, but was intently working towards the quest of enlightenment.
He found a Zen teacher, Arvis Justi, when he was 20 years old. She was teaching in a simple house in his neighbourhood, ten minutes away from his home. He thought that this elderly lady could help him look for enlightenment. At the first meeting he was asked at this unimpressive house to go through the back door. In spite of this humble environment, he continued to meditate in her living room for many years. During these years she sent him to other centres for long retreats, but after several long retreats he discovered that this humble teacher was exactly what he needed. She is very ordinary and without airs. And she was the one he wanted. He stopped going away after that. After her retirement she went and labelled tapes in Adyashanti’s office.
In his early twenties, he built a little zendo in his backyard, in which he meditated from two to four hours daily, reading hundreds of books plus writing a lot in journals.
The First Awakening
At his first breakthrough he was twenty-five years old. It came after six to eight months of pushing and intensive striving. He was nearly going crazy. So he sat down to meditate, stuffing five years of effort into one minute. After muttering, “I can’t do this” several times, everything started to relax. In this relaxation, an inward implosion occurred. It was like being plugged into a wall socket when the heart was beating louder and the breathing got more laboured. He felt like dying. At that point, as soon as he did not mind dying, all the energy disappeared and he was in space. He became space and there was a fantastic amount of downloading of insights into his system. The downloading was so fast and furious that he could not decipher what they were. This downloading of insights went on for a while and then it stopped. Then he got off his cushion, and he bowed to the Buddha figure. After that he laughed loud because he realized that he got what he was chasing. He was chasing what he already was. This was the first awakening.
Once he stepped outside, a voice kept on informing him that, “There’s more to this. You haven’t seen the whole thing. Keep going. Don’t stop here.” From that moment onwards, his spiritual seeker energy disappeared and never to come back any more. Why try so hard to become what he already was. He was it, but he must find out what was this? So he continued meditating a lot. In the next five to six years what happened spiritually to him was not when he was meditating. The spiritual improvement was actually happening in his daily life. He was still training as a competitive racing bicyclist, which gives him a good self-image, as a high-calibre athlete. He was still domineering toward people in this competitive racing.
At twenty-six years old, he developed an obscure illness. This put him to bed for six months. He was rather dysfunctional during this period. So at the end of the illness he gave up the idea of being an athlete, which is very liberating. A year later, he went on the binge by training again. Another six months of illness came again: sinus infection, lung infection and mononucleosis. This time the school of hard knocks really make him let go of this self-image, but not the meditation.
During the same time, he went through an unhealthy and ridiculous relationship. It gave him an image of being a nice, good person and a helper. It was phoney and false. So he broke up this relationship. And together with the last illness, he was free again. It was wonderful to be empty in space again.
He got married at thirty-three years old, and took on a real job apprenticing himself with his father’s business. Having to put his life on hold until now because of his chasing for enlightenment, he decided to get on with his daily life. This is his personal spiritual progress. Two months later, his second awakening happened. His marriage provided the stability for his inward journey.
The night before the happening he was sitting on the edge of the bed, a thought came through his mind. It said: “I’m ready”. This started the happening, but he went to sleep. The next day, when he started to meditate, within thirty seconds, he heard a bird chirp. And spontaneously a question arose: “Who hears this sound?” At that moment of this question everything went upside down: the bird, the sound and the hearing were one thing. Literally, they were experienced as exactly the same…the hearing was no more he than the sound and the bird and anything. It was very quick, very sudden, and it was just one.
The next thing that happened was some distant thought. He cannot remember what the thought was about, but he knew that the thought was not him. He knew that the thought and the awakened self are completely separate. There was zero identity in the thought. After a few minutes he got up to check the rooms and the contents of the house and his wife sleeping. They were all part of him. However there were no joyous emotions in this awakening. After these movements consciousness woke up, but it was completely separate from the body. Now he realized that all those trapped images were not his previous incarnations. He was asleep during those incarnations. He is now awake and all the previous forms including the present one were not real. Now this awakeness has no form, no shape, no colour, no nothing. No location but everywhere. This awakeness was everything and yet beyond everything. If all the forms and everything that he saw disappeared, this that he realized will not diminish one bit. This is the result of his awakening.
He now felt the sense of being bigger and outside the body. He also felt that body was within this awakeness or spirit. When the awakeness or consciousness came back into the body, it is also outside: so it is both outside and inside. He now also realizes that this current incarnation was merely a clothing to wear this time, and he was to function through this form. He now felt a great joy with this body/incarnation. Now with this awakening the very first step that he took was like a baby’s first step! This is a miracle. This is heaven: this life, this body. The great joke is “he was walking in god’s hand looking for god”. He now knew that there was no necessity to experience anything extraordinary. This ordinary life is totally satisfying and is a sort of a miracle.
From now onwards there was nothing to be searched any more and no more question to be answered. The outcome of this achievement is that there are no words like ‘wisdom’ or ‘love’ to epitomize it. It is as if he had reached the source, which turned out to be the unknown. The unknown in Buddhism is emptiness or void or sunnata. So now he knew what he was and he was emptiness, a mystery. It is like the “ I AM” in the bible, and there is no explanation on what this “I AM” is.
When a book or a phrase sparks something in one, it is at the level of insight, not the mind. His body then sings with the insight. All words and books can carry some transmission of the author to the reader. Sometimes the transmission can be very powerful: it is because of the author’s words, especially when there is a resonance to what is offered. The resonance ignites a potential, which then has to be worked out by the recipient, not the author. We have to become responsible for our own transformation.
He has written four books. They are:
1) The Impact of Awakening. 2000.
2) My Secret is Silence. 2003.
3) Emptiness Dancing. 2004.
4) True Meditation. 2006.
Out of these four, the best is “Emptiness Dancing”. This is his most comprehensive and thorough book on enlightenment.
Enlightenment is awakening from the dream state of separateness to the reality of One. It means waking up to what you truly are and then being that. Realize and be. Realization is not enough. After Self-realization one must act, do and express what one has realized. This is a whole new way of life----living in reality instead of living out the programmed ideas, beliefs, and impulses of your mind.
The truth is that you already are what you are seeking. You are looking for God with his eyes. This truth is so simple, shocking and radical that it is easy to miss among one’s flurry of seeking. He is here to shake his students awake and not to ask them to dream better. We must wake up to the fact that we are all already living Buddhas. We are the emptiness, the infinite nothing. Let go of all ideas and images in our minds: they come and go and are not even generated by us.
Awakening is only the end of seeking and the end of the seeker. It is the beginning of a life lived from your true nature. It is a life of oneness, a human expression of oneness. There is no question of you becoming the One; you are the One. Are you a conscious expression of the One? Are you living consciously as the One? All his talks are about awakening of life lived after awakening.
One morning sitting in meditation, he heard the chirping of a bird, a spontaneous question came up to ask: “What is it that hears the sound?” Suddenly he realized that the sound, the bird and the hearing were the manifestation of one thing. Then he opened his eyes to find that he and the wall were the same one thing. Then he walked around the house just to find that everything in and around the house was part of the One. Then in the middle of a step, ‘his’ consciousness left him as if it was a separate entity. His consciousness is not he. Next, numerous images arose as if they were his past incarnations as far back as he could see. He exclaimed: “My God, I’ve been identified with various forms for umpteen lifetimes.” Suddenly he realized his consciousness or spirit had mistaken all the previous forms as his previous incarnations.
Now he realized that consciousness was not confined to a form: it was existing independently. Consciousness or spirit is no more defining itself by any form, a body, a mind, a lifetime, a single thought or a memory. These two experiences happen together. The first is that he became Oneness of everything, and the second he became the consciousness or spirit that totally woke up out of all identification, even out of Oneness. When the Oneness dropped away, there was still a basic awakeness, but it had two different aspects: he was either everything or absolutely nothing. This was the awakening, the realization of Self. Then he took an ordinary step, which felt like the first baby step of his life. Then the next step and the next and every step is a new one.
In each “first “ step, formless consciousness and Oneness just merged together so that the awakeness that had always identified itself as form was actually inside of the form, unidentified. It was not looking through any thoughts or memories of what had come before, just through the five senses. With no history or memory, every step felt like a first step.
Thus he realized that when he awakened up he woke up out of everything, including all the things that had brought him there, including Zen. So, he wrote a letter to his wife who is still sleeping: “Happy birthday. Today is my birthday. I’ve just been born.”
We humans define ourselves basically by the content of our minds, feelings and history. Many forms of spirituality try to get rid of thoughts, feelings and memories---to make the mind blank. This is not wise. It is better to see through thoughts and to recognise that a thought is just a thought, a belief is just a belief, a memory is just a memory. Then we can stop binding consciousness or spirit to our thoughts and mental states. What was looking through his eyes and senses was awakeness or spirit rather than conditioning or memory. This same spirit was actually looking through all the other pairs of eyes. It did not matter if it was looking through the other conditioning; it was the same thing. It was seeing itself everywhere, not only in the eyes, but also in the trees, the rocks and the floor.
It is paradoxical that the more this spirit or consciousness starts to taste itself, not as a thought or idea or belief, but as just a simple presence of awakeness, the more this awakeness is reflected everywhere. The more we wake up out of bodies and minds and identities, the more we see that bodies and minds are actually just manifestations of that same spirit, that same presence. The more we realize that who we are is totally outside of time, outside of the world, and outside of everything that happens, the more we realize that this same presence is the world----all that is happening and all that exists. It is like two sides of a coin. This experiential awakening is not rare, and no one teaches it to you.
When we are no longer functioning through our conditioning, the sense of “me” is no longer there. What really runs and operates this life is love. And this same love is in everybody all the time. Nobody owns this love. Everybody is essentially the manifestation of this love. Now in order to find out ‘what am I’ one will find that “I” am the silence between two thoughts. You are nobody. You are this openness, this presence. You are not a creation of thought, belief or faith. It is free of all identity. It is the uncreated.
Trying to hold on to one’s identities, even if it is the holiest of identities, is like shoving a camel through the eye of a needle. However, if one is pure space, one can push it through the smallest of eye needle. Not a shred of self-centred identity can go through, only nothingness can.
When we passed into our own nothingness, heaven is our experience. In our own awakeness we see that we are pure spirit with no form. This formless spirit is the essence, the animating presence of everything. This is being in heaven because, in each step, spirit and essence are occupying our body. That is the true meaning of being born again. Being born again is not just a religious conversion, it is being unborn when we realize that eternal nothingness is actually living this life called “my life.”
Being awakened spiritually does not mean that from now onwards we are going to be in good fortune. No. Being nothingness in the ocean, the waves may be high or low, we will not be affected by the waves. Within this awakeness is the peace that surpasses understanding, and our life does not need to be doing better. It can just do what life does: it just flows. We do not care.
The mind is dreaming. The awakened spirit is not dreaming. The mind tells all sorts of stories and wants to know whether you are progressing. But when you are awakened, you realize that all is a dream and it is not true---it is just a thought. Thought can tell a million stories inside of awareness, and is not going to change awareness one bit. The body may be sad with a sad story or good with a good story. When enlightened, you wake up out of your mind, out of your dream. You do not awaken. What has eternally been awake realizes itself. That which is eternally awake is what you are.
We meet here together to recognize the Truth that is eternal. To be in satsang means to be in association with Truth. In satsang you will ask “Who am I?” or “What am I?”, without any script or role, without the story about who you are. Our roles and stories are not what we are. Truth is who you are without your story or script, right now. Awakening is a radical shift in identity. You think you are you, but you are not. You are eternal being. The time to wake up is now. Not tomorrow. Now.
The blessing here is to be disarmed without any advantage, without any script. The mind itself is clueless when it is totally disarmed. “Me” is the actor that is acting out this up to now. We look and search, but we cannot find anything or anyone behind the “me.” There is only an empty echo. In this way when you let go more and more you will not find any actor behind the role. This is wordless experience of being. What you are is prior to your idea of you. Those who know who they are, are the ones that are awake without a script or a story.
Even an experience of awakeness can be claimed by the mind in order not to be further disarmed. So even the most sacred concept can be used as a subtle defence against the state of being, which cannot be fixated in a concept. “Who am I” is the living state of being that you always have been and are right now. You are not a human being, you are being appearing as human. The more you experientially enter the unknown, the more you become disarmed. Right in the middle of the unknowing there is a vivid radiant awakeness. By allowing the recognition of that awakeness in you, you can awaken as that.
The awakeness, which is in you, has an agenda of its own. It could not care less about your agendas. It is moving according to its own movement. So be grateful about it.
In these circumstances of being totally disarmed and letting go of all concepts and scripts, you might think that you benefited nothing from this awakening. It does not solve any problems. It does not get you anything. The important thing is that you no longer cared. In satsang one awakens to what one is eternally and one can have a true life.
Openness is everywhere, and that is our true nature. It is not in opposition to anything. Whatever is happening in the openness is perfectly all right and if we are in it, we can respond to life in a spontaneous and wise way. Truth is about remembering, recognising or realizing your true nature. Truth may just come to you after you relax a little, and in one moment you self-realize yourself. You feel the experience of openness here and now. It is felt inside, outside and everywhere and let the word ‘openness’ disappear. The experience gets deeper and deeper and becomes more wordless. The letting go deepens and it may feel as if you are falling into the unknown by the mind. The mind then tends to conceptualise and limit it. In truth it is a deeper knowing experience of being itself. You then start to realize you are this openness. You also see that this is what others are. When you liberate yourself, it is the Self that is liberated. You are remembering everybody’s Self because it is the same Self. When this is realized, it enables the total transformation of human interaction.
As a child, you were endowed with a self-image, which you thought that it must be protected. This self-image will be enlarged and consolidated, and the protection is correspondingly increased. So when you drop the protection, the remembrance of your true nature quickly jumps in to remove the protecting wall and the self-image. The protecting wall also provides suffering. One can see that the self-image is not real when the wall comes down. So when the intellectual wall opens up, you become open-minded. When the emotional wall opens up, you become open-hearted. When realization of the truth removes the limited me, there is suddenly no self-image—but only total presence. This openness is present and imageless. There is no need to protect it. Somebody can yell at it, and the sound goes through space. Somebody can love it. That is nice, but it does not add anything to it or subtract anything from it.
This imageless Self is also called awakeness or awareness or openness and it is very quiet. The more you are into openness the more the body knows that there is nothing to protect. This openness will also acquire wisdom, which will be fascinated without losing oneself in an identity, and therefore cannot be threatened. Now the Self can live a life of freedom without fear. The quickest way to this openness to your true nature is through the five senses and not through the mind. For example, you do not just listen to a noise with the ears, but feel the entirety of the moment, you will feel beyond the limited space of the me. This feeling is not just the quietness and the birds and finally you also feel the sound. When the five senses are opened up, you will realize that 99 percent of your problems are confined and focussed in one direction. When you focus only on one thing, you suffer. It is not true that you perceive all of these experiences, but rather it is the whole that perceives itself.
When one has a deep awakening, these three qualities arise: wisdom, innocence and love. Wisdom means realizing the Truth. This truth realizes what one is, what the world is and what reality is. Truth is far beyond philosophy, science, faith, belief or religion.
The second quality is innocence. This produces an ever-present newness in life. As the brain is no more working as before: no more noticing the experience and comparing with the previous ones. “Done this and been there” are the usual comments. Whereas now there is no more any comparison and every event is new.
The third quality is love. After awakening, what is born is a love of everything or what is. It is simply a love of everything that exists e.g. bed-sheets, strands of hair. Loving life as it is makes us realize that all and everything is the One.
With a deep awakening, whatever one experiences it is not related to the personal self. Thoughts, feelings and what ever happens in this world does not relate to oneself. So now love and innocence replaces the attributes of the personal self. Seeing our true nature we realize that there is no self. In the past love and innocence were covered over by our selfish thoughts and feelings. But now, our innocence is limitless: no matter how deep our spiritual insight is the more the innocence will grow. With the ego, the more we know, the less innocent we feel. But to the true nature, the more we know, the more innocent we feel. Being innocent means being unguarded, because we do not know what is going on and this is the wonderment. This is because the experience bypasses thought. It is not filtered and that is why it is innocent.
Perceiving things through innocence will automatically bring forth the deepest wisdom of the moment. This is “heart wisdom” which is called prajna in Buddhism. It is a wisdom that belongs to the whole of existence. The other quality that arises from awakening is love. This is a love that loves to live this life because in life it is actually meeting itself moment to moment. We are nothing and everything simultaneously. Love is meeting itself every moment, even though it may be a rotten moment. So it is the One meeting itself, realizing itself, experiencing itself.
The more one lets go of the sense of personal self, the more innocence creeps in. The more innocence there is, the more love comes in to experience life. So as one is more open, the more wisdom becomes available. So wisdom and innocence deepen, and this will in turn lead to more love. More love will also lead to more wisdom. And so on.
The Buddhist “Middle Way” is the harmonization of body and mind or spirit and matter. When this happens, inherent oneness is realized. Spirit and matter are two aspects of the One, and this is our true nature. Humans are identified with matter, which includes subtle and gross manifestation. Matter is anything that can be touched, seen, felt, perceived or thought. Feeling and emotion are both matter.
The essence of matter is spirit. Matter is animated by spirit, by the life force, and they cannot be separated. If we take away the life force, there is no matter. When we advance spiritually, we are moving from identification with matter to identification with spirit. True enlightenment is when matter and spirit are in harmony. This is oneness. The harmony is deeper when we realize that we are spirit. That means we have to expose ourselves to the teaching. It is like exposing ourselves to what is or the source. But we have to be completely naked to be awakened in a natural way. When we relax and allow this natural harmonization there is a deep awakening to the beauty of our environment and our own selves.
When you start to see the light that you really are, the light waking you up in you, the radiance, you realize it has no intention to change you. It has no intention to harmonize. It has no agenda. It just happens. The truth is the only thing you will run into that has no agenda. That is why the Truth is so powerful. Give up your agendas and continue to expose yourself, and harmonization will naturally occur.
Freedom is the realization that you are this deep peace and unknown. Everything else is an extension of this unknown. Trees, your thoughts and feelings and finally the universe are all extensions of the unknown in time, in form. This huge unknown is also very quiet. In order to reach this unknown, one must pull out all the roots of the weeds. It is no use removing only the surface weeds, as they will grow up again in no time.
The root of “me” is when that innocent, wordless fascination and love that is in love with what is to identification with what is thought. The freedom is lost when the above movement took place. This happened in the beginning of time, and is also happening right now. So now as the mind has taken over, it keeps on saying: “That’s mine. That’s my thoughts. That’s my problems.” At this point, lies the genesis, the root, of all suffering and separation.
Your true self is different from experiencing with thought. You are the mystery and you cannot look at the mystery, because you can only look from the mystery. This very awake, alive and loving mystery is looking through your eyes at this moment. That is what is hearing through your ears. Turn around to encounter this mystery, which is pure spirit, and wake up to what you are. This mystery always takes care of itself as long as we are not addicted to concepts. In order to remain as the mystery, one must totally clean up the self-image until it is nought. There should not also be any personal agenda. So when we see the truth it will set us free. So wake up and find out what you eternally are.
All of us would like to self-liberate. If you are holding on to something static, ideas or memories (it could be something big 20 years ago or something very small last week), it is not possible to liberate yourself. Thus one can stop holding on to these stories by de-framing and not re-framing them. It is not to modify but to totally de-frame and de-construct our views so that we can wake up from the dream state of separateness. So we must let go of all mental constructs and structures in order to wake up to our true nature. There is no such thing as a true belief: all beliefs are false.
True silence is quite different from manufactured silence. The former is the real state of our empty consciousness. Manufactured silence is that that is obtained through a manipulated meditation. Real silence is not due to manipulation or control. Real silence is our true nature. We are not silent. We are silence. The difference here is like between bondage and freedom. Do not look for silence. When we are receptive and allowing, we will return to our natural state of being very quiet.
Meditating students may be fully concentrating for some length of time and end up in a type of quiet, but this is not it. This is the manipulative type. The right way to is allow the thoughts in the mind to flow without apprehension or forcibly pushed away. Do this until the thoughts stop by themselves. This will end up in a deep, quiet silence and that is your true nature. This is the deepest Self, which is freedom. This state has to be arrived at effortlessly, and does not require maintenance.
At this juncture, when you enquire: “Who am I”, the brain cannot answer and therefore you enter into silence very quickly. This quiet is rich and vast. It is very open and receptive. This is your true nature, which is quietness or nothingness. It is a transcended quietness. There is a palpable presence in this quietness. This presence is inside of you as well as outside of you: it is everywhere. In this atmosphere, it is bright and awake with a deep sense of being alive.
When you enter into your true nature, you cannot avoid any part of your experience. There will be a struggle only when the mind or ego that does not want to return to its true nature. However, when you are in that deep quiet, you can see that a thought arises in the emptiness. Do not accept it as true. It will straight away land you into a seeker’s struggle and you have lost. From this silence you will be able to see that all the mind’s movements have no reality to it. It becomes real only when you believe in them. Thoughts have no power. Not until you believe in them.
You cannot enter into silence with something. It must be nothing. You cannot be somebody: you must be nobody. You can give away your ideas, beliefs, heart, mind and soul, but the most precious commodity is nothing. Only the nothing can get into the door, the rest cannot. If you want something from silence, you are refused entry.
Silence reveals itself only to itself. We must enter as nothing and remain as nothing. Then silence will open its secret, which is itself. So all the teaching, all the teachers, and the books can only bring us to the door, but not into it. At the door, we will the feel the presence of silence very powerfully. This sacred invitation will arouse a spontaneous arising to enter as nobody. Inside one will find that silence is the final and ultimate teacher and teaching, and one’s humanness will have to be on one’s knees all the time. Here, in this sacred place, we are totally humble.
Silence is the best teacher, because it is welcoming and because we are most humble and totally devoted to Truth. Silence is the only teacher that is there all the time.
There is not a problem if consciousness or spirit wants to manifest as an object---a tree, a dog, a car or a stone. However, when spirit manifests as a human, it always gets lost. This is because when consciousness enters a human, it tends to be self-aware. In this process there is almost always the loss of identity. When the human tries to be self-aware he commits a blip in trying to be self-conscious. Consciousness loses itself in what it creates because it identifies itself with that creation. This is the human condition.
The first mistake is to identify itself with a human being. That is like the wave thinking that it is different to the ocean. It forgets its source. The great delusion is that he thinks that he is just a wave, when he is actually the ocean. Being conscious of itself on the limited surface, he will suffer because it is not true. The suffering is due to ignorance. This mistaken identity started as an innocent act, but as it gets further down the line, it becomes not so innocent.
This natural part of the human condition is the evolutionary development of consciousness through a human being. The obvious process is from a child through adolescence up to an adult. One can pick holes in this growing up process, but that is wrong. That process is normal for everybody.
Spiritually, the human condition is a natural part of the evolution of consciousness through a human form. It takes itself to be the form, rather than the source of the form. This misidentification leads to separation and to loneliness and that they are different from everybody else. This is in spite of how much they are loved and how much they are surrounded.
As this is only a blip in the development of consciousness, and when one wakes up from that blip, that person wakes up to beyond the blip of separation. He is now a matured consciousness and is awake. He is a liberated human being. He is liberated from false identification and separation. Only the human being can wake up out of the illusion of being separate being, and this in turn can wake itself up in a much larger sense. Now he realizes that he is not a wave, but an ocean of being, he can use that wave to deliver a message---to wake up other waves.
The spiritual seeker normally starts with the mind by collecting spiritual material. He does it by reading, going to lectures by gurus and possibly by meditating. This is a horizontal movement. This collection of ideas, beliefs and information will get us nowhere. In order to obtain the Truth, one must literally wake up. As with the mind, we collect experiences with our emotion. This accumulation of the body and mind will get us no nearer to freedom. We just carry more baggage until our minds are overloaded with beliefs, teachers’ information and techniques. There is no upward improvement: we are stuck at the same level.
However, there is a transcendent state beyond which one cannot go. This is the true spirituality. One must walk through the wall and leave the mind behind and not to come back to the wall. One feels insecure at this stage of letting go of all the accumulated knowledge. The mind cannot fathom that there is transcendent intelligence beyond thought and acquired knowledge. So if you go to God, you go to God naked. That means one cannot go with any accumulated knowledge to the unknown transcendent.
Now one is in a different dimension. The mind is not noisy any more, as pure consciousness is no more bothered with the chattering of the mind. Therefore the awareness just goes pass that wall of knowledge into this very quiet state. In this quiet state, one knows nothing as the mind is not used as a reference point. As one goes into the depth of the unknown, one is in this mysterious state, and it also means one must let go more if one wants to go in deeper.
As one leaves all acquired knowledge behind, one literally leaves the self behind. But one is still here and now. On top of that, one is totally empty except for consciousness. Not even that because that is just a word. None of one’s identities exist until one thinks them into existence. The problem comes only when one adds on to that existence in one’s mind.
In this emptiness, one tastes the experience of being. It is awake and alive even before one becomes somebody. Everything else changes all the time except this awakeness or consciousness. Being is the one constant---that which is always awake. Spiritual awakening means shifting one’s identity from me-self to no-self Self. One can still use the knowledge acquired before the awakening: one can still drive a car or use the computer. Nothing is lost except the false identity. The un-awakened state tend to project that the awakened state is imbecilic and therefore is unable to function. This is one fear towards crossing the barrier. This is not true. Finally, we recognize that what is right here is eternal consciousness, pure spirit. Transcendence will erase all conceptual knowledge, but will still be able to see that one is a man or woman. However, as a good actor, one recognizes that one is not what one is appearing as. Everything that exists is eternal consciousness or the God appearing as such and such. The Buddha called it no-self. When we see this, we see Unity or Oneness. Now we see God appearing as the wall, the floor, the human being etc.
No knowledge, no statement of the truth touches what is eternal, what you really are. No statement can get you there either. The most enlightened being cannot speak the Truth. Only an arrow can point to beyond the wall of concepts, but it cannot tell you what is beyond the wall. Therefore there is nothing to know if you want to be free. As long as you know something you are not enlightened. As soon as you absolutely know nothing and there is absolutely nothing to know, you are enlightened, because all there is is being. When there is Oneness, who is the One going to know about? The One knows only “I AM THAT I AM”, ‘I am this. I am that.’ This is true awakened knowledge.
You now look for the Truth in what you are. It is all One: if you know what you are you would know what everything else is. Your focus of inquiry shifts from thought to being.
This is a mental construct of the mind. There is no such entity in reality. Every thought, emotion, predisposition or suffering that happens is blamed on the ego. Being a figment of imagination, the ego definitely does not exist. All spiritual seekers tend to blame the ego for their own non-progress on the path. Poor ego, which is non-existent, is constantly blamed as a fall guy. It is always taken as the cause of emotional expressions like anger, joy, depression and bliss, but the ego is never found. A thought is just a thought, a feeling only a feeling and action is just an action, with no ego in it. When the individual claims this emotion or feeling, it concedes it to the ego, a manufactured entity.
One method of eliminating the ego is to deem it irrelevant. One also has to get rid of all the conditions that go with the ego.
There are many types of love and it maybe expressed in numerous ways. One may love a person, a country, a piece of music, or a book etc., but it is not the true love of essence in its most profound form. It is a vital aspect of Truth: without love there is no Truth. Without Truth, there is no love. Love transcends all experiences and emotion. This love is present even if you are not in a feeling mood for love. When you truly have this profound love, you know that this love transcends all experiences. It is like when a mother loves a very difficult child. She loves that child even though the child is giving her hell.
This true love is indiscriminate. It is always on. It loves saints and sinners equally. That is real love. It is synonymous with Truth. It is no different from Truth. This deepest essence of love does not fall in and out of love. Love is, period. It loves people whom your personality does not like. This is because whomever one meets it is oneself. So love applies to whatever one meets: it is like meeting the person who is also be. So this love coming directly from our-selves is in love with whatever it meets. This deep love is synonymous with Truth. When Truth is present, this deep love is present. This is a love that is pre-existing and has always been here. It does not depend on whether one becomes noble, holy, or worthy.
You find that you love all sort of things and people whom your mind would rather not love. This is the beginning of the end for everything in you that thinks it is separate. True love has nothing to do with liking someone, agreeing with him or her, or being compatible. It is a love of Unity, a love of seeing God wearing all the masks and recognizing itself in them all. Without it, it is not real Truth. When you are awakened to this love that transcend every good and bad moment, a radical revolution occurs in your relationship with life itself. This is a love that has no opposite, such as hate, but is present through everything, in all moments. This love that you are loves the unlovable, loves what you are not supposed to love or what you were not allowed to love culturally, you realize this is a different kind of love. This love is timeless and is uncontained.
It is only when one is able to give up completely to control everything on every level, that one can be spiritually free. It must include the most powerful type to the subtlest form of control. The release of control must be absolute and complete. The remaining desire to control is equivalent to the unwillingness to be awake. When one is fully enlightened, one is fully mutated to live a life totally free of the will to control. It is like death, when one completely loses control in life. Control is attained even as early as two years old, as one controls one’s parents. So to be awakened, one must completely let go of control of everything in life.
Let go of your demand at this moment. This is because demand to get or remove something is suffering. Your demands keep you chained to the dream state of conditioned mind, because you miss what is now. Letting go must include every demand, even including love. Stop chasing peace and love and your heart becomes full. Stop trying to be a better person and stop trying to forgive and you will be a better person and forgiveness happens. Stop and be still.
Sudden realization is just dropping every demand on your-self and on others, but drop it indefinitely. The beauty of Self is intrinsically what you are and not the matter of acquiring anything held in high regard or being noticed. Your intrinsic beauty is your inner blessedness. You cannot touch your blessedness, but your essence is not hidden. It is overlooked because we are looking only at the mind structure and missing what makes the structure possible. Our structures of belief, disbelief, and emotions---all of our inner and outer, come and go. Only the space that is awake remains. And there is more space in you than there is structure.
What you are is the only thing that you cannot acquire. You are God, and you can acquire everything but God. You cannot acquire God. It is the ego that is always trying to acquire something---Love, God, money or a new toy---something that will make you happy. It can acquire a million things, but it cannot acquire what you are. You cannot acquire your own essence, the only thing that is going on. Seeing this is realization of what you always had and what you are and always will be. This gives you a shock.
When you are self-realized, you will be happy and liberated, but you will be like a new born baby. Your first steps will be wobbly with the feeling of insecurity, but do not go back to the old forms of self-protection and seeking again. It is strange but faintly familiar to be a lover of what is. It has always been this way, because it is ancient, and yet it is just born.
Most people searching for enlightenment do not know what they are looking for. Not knowing how to get to the Truth, they go and look for spiritual experiences and also to sustain those experiences. In this vein they look for higher and higher conscious experiences even with ascending kundalini energy. But enlightenment is a demolition project: everything one believes in was not true. What ever you take yourself or others to be, whatever yours or their self-image is not true. Whatever you think about God is wrong. Whatever your thoughts about God or whatever the divine is are not true. The world is not what you think it is. Similarly, whatever you think what enlightenment is, it is not accurate.
Enlightenment is a removal project. It removes everything. The removal must be complete, otherwise it is not liberating. If there is even one idea or belief, liberation cannot happen. Human beings mostly try to avoid the Truth, because it is emptiness. We do not want to see that we are nothing, and everything we believe is wrong. We do not want to know that whatever we think about God is not right. We do not know what Buddha meant when he said that there is no self. We do not want to see that there is a gaping void at the centre of our existence. In this world all spiritual teachings never went near the Truth, except for Buddhism. The Truth is: ‘there is no self.’ Buddhism does teach that, but it is mostly the 5 precepts and other moral teaching that is emphasised. This is because the teachers themselves do not know what is the Anatta doctrine. Anatta means no self. Truly, the Truth shall set you free! Many Buddhists believe that praying to Buddha or doing thousands of prostrations will set them free. It is a lie. One has to give up everything that is not the Truth and one does not want anything back in return. The absolute letting go is letting go of the one who is letting go.
Enlightenment is realizing that there is no separate self. Also, whatever I take as gospel true is also not true. No separate self means Oneness, which does not merge. If it is merging, then it is an illusion, because it means I will be merging with the absolute, or infinite or with God. These mystical experiences are not enlightenment. Oneness is there is only This. This can only be realized when everything else is demolished. This awakening is outside of everything that comes and goes. It is a total waking up outside of time. It is just like waking up of a dream at night. It proves to be the fact “ I am not.” There is still a body, a mind, a personality and a sense of self. Otherwise consciousness could not work through the body, like someone calling you.
There is definitely a sense of self after enlightenment, otherwise one cannot function. There is total emptiness with its infinite display of itself. Enlightenment is very liberating because it steals everything from you. You are left with only That. That means you are free from the endless twoness. When we are in our true nature there is no one looking out at emptiness. It is only emptiness looking at itself. There are no enlightened individuals, there is only enlightenment. Everybody is inherently enlightened, but there is no individual. So it is only true that enlightenment is enlightened. After enlightenment, there will be no ideas, no beliefs, no identity, and one is entirely happy as one could not care less at the situation. One has become a robot with a computer brain.
However, there are also many positive aspects of enlightenment. Being endowed with love, one loves the world and the people as they are. There are no preconditions to this love.
All is one and you are One. Many have the awakening experience, but only few of them become free. This is because they missed the revelations of perfect Oneness---you are the ultimate source. The awakened person does not have a really clear perception of the perfect unity, which is inherent in the awakening.
It is like taking oneself as the character in the dream, but finds out on waking that one is not the character. One is the dreamer or the source of the dream. Everything in the dream comes from you. There is no such thing as an “other.” There is no one else because it is all ultimately one’s own self. That means there is no personal relationship. But if one or both persons do not take seriously that there is no other, everything becomes a dream all over again. Awakening is like a personal experience of the big bang. This little awakening will finally change our perception of the whole universe. This realization destroys all sense of separateness and also destroys all that which is not true. So do not try to stuff the whole infinite into one limited life. Throw your life into Truth.
One may come to the meditation cushion with previous experiences of either watching the breath or using mantra or visualization techniques. All these have to be discarded for the following method, which is from the natural state of being. In True Meditation, we start from the foundation of letting everything be as it is from the very beginning: we do not move toward the natural state, or trying to create the natural state. This is done by letting go of the meditator, the controller. If one sits down and allow everything as it is, one will find that the peace and stillness is already there. One does not have to attain them. At the beginning of the sitting, one may feel peaceful or agitated or disturbed. Let the experience to be as it is, and soon an underlying, uncontaminated normal state of consciousness will arise. This is an innocent state of consciousness because it is not derived from effort or discipline. This is not an altered state of consciousness. This state has great potential for a spiritual awakening. It awakens you to what you and everything actually is, the oneness of all.
Enlightenment is also not an altered state of consciousness. Through meditation one can occasionally enter into an altered state of consciousness. The altered states of consciousness are: depression, happiness, sadness, merging with the cosmos, expanding one’s consciousness etc. Enlightenment is actually a natural state of consciousness, the innocent state of consciousness. This state is uncontaminated by the movement of thought, uncontaminated by control or manipulation of mind. This is really what enlightenment is all about. We can only do this by allowing ourselves to rest in the natural state from the beginning. The mind cannot be in control when meditating. We must be detached from the mind. An insight may arise when the mind is empty. We must also let go of effort and discipline. A certain vitality can be seen to arise into this consciousness. It is as if a light is turned on: it is beautiful, innocent and uncontaminated. This arises on its own and all by itself and is the natural state. So, sit down and let everything be as it is. You will find that the peace and stillness are already there.
To me, Adyashanti is truly awakened. He started as a Zen student at twenty years old. He had his first awakening at twenty-five years. He got married at thirty-three years old and experienced his second awakening three months later. From his writing, one can discern that he knows the state of enlightenment thoroughly. In fact the whole book, Emptiness Dancing, is to tell us how to de-condition ourselves so that we become naked before we enter the realm of Truth. The erasure of the trimmings of the self-image is very thorough and complete. Step by step, system by system, he meticulously teaches us to rip off all the coverings and colouration of our self-image until there is no self and no image. We can only enter the eye of the needle when we have become totally empty and void. There should not be any beliefs, ideas and doctrines of any religion or spirituality. The mind would have to be destroyed. The ego is found to be non-existent. The body is only a nondescript robot. It is the spirit that provides the life force. Everybody’s spirit is the same---it is the source of all beings. All our lives and stories are our dreams. One must wake up from our dreams and realize that there is no one there. This empty space is the interval between two thoughts. This empty space is the source. It is silent and peaceful. When you find that you are the space you are truly awakened. You will find that you are always that emptiness, but you do not know it. All your past lives are actually your separate dreams.
Once you are fully awakened, you will be endowed with love, innocence and wisdom. You are enlightened. The awakening may take more than one step. It may take several steps to be in the realm of Oneness. After the initial awakening, some individual may fall back to be separate again. This is because at the beginning, the state of non-duality is quite frightening, and insecurity drives one back to the separate dream state again.
His explanations are clear and lucid. He certainly sounds like he has been through all the stages himself. He is meticulous in destroying all the coverings and conditions of the self-image. Then after the full awakening, he went on to describe in great detail the fruits of enlightenment: love, innocence and wisdom. Of course, there is usually peace and stillness in normal situations. He may have to get use to being selfless and there being no other. A quotation from the Buddhist teaching may be appropriate here:
Anatta is Sunnata
Selflessness (anatta) is Emptiness (sunnata). The Theravadin emphasizes on anatta, whilst the Mahayanist accentuates on sunnata. Both are the same. According to Huang Po Sunnata is the Dhamma (truth), Sunnata is the Buddha, and Sunnata is the One Mind. Inner Sunnata is the natural and normal state of mind that is not scattered and confused. When the mind is not grasping or clinging and not attached to anything it is Sunnata (voidness). When voidness is practiced to the utmost it becomes Nibbana (heaven). We must empty the mind of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ until it is absolutely void. Then Nibbana (heaven) is there. Dukkha (suffering) arises because we cling to ‘I’ and ‘mine’. If we comprehend this, then we can empty the mind of dukkha. If this happens, we will see dhamma, which becomes Sunnata. Sunnata is Nibbana. To remedy mental dukkha, we should continuously see our thoughts: they are either painful or pleasurable. Whether painful or pleasurable as long as we do not cling on to them, there will not be any dukkha. This is the process of cure by the method of sunnata. Anatta is the voidness of self. When there is no self, there is no egoism; there is no selfishness and there is no clinging to objects and concepts. If this is the case the doctrine of anatta contributes to Nibbana, which is also Sunnata. Sunnata is eternal and immutable. It is forever, unlike other dhammas. Sunnata is neither born nor dies. Once absolutely seen in its purest state it will remain forever. There is no more rebirth. Buddha said that ‘You should look on the world as being void. When you are always mindful of the Sunnata of the world as being void, death will not find you.’ The point emphasized here is that the fundamental nature of all things and all mental states is void, Sunnata. The spiritual realms are also Sunnata. It also means that if you take yourself as anatta and the world as sunnata, you will be free of dukkha (suffering). As Buddha said:
Nibbana is the supreme voidness
Nibbana is the supreme happiness.
Having learnt that grasping and clinging are the cause of dukkha, we must be mindful not to allow grasping and clinging to arise ever again. This alone will release us from dukkha and we can remain in Sunnata----Nibbana.
1) Adyashanti. The Impact of Awakening. Open Gate Publishing. Los Gatos, California. 2000.
2) Adyashanti. My Secret is Silence. Open Gate Publishing. San Jose, California. 2003.
3) Adyashanti. Emptiness Dancing. Sounds True, Inc. Boulder CO. 2004.
4) Adyashanti. True Meditation. Sounds True, Inc. Boulder CO. 2006.