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Doubt As A Doorway To The Divine

   by Peter Holleran


   "If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." - Rene Descartes (1)

   "By doubting we come to truth." - Cicero

   "It is the first operation of philosophic training to instill doubt, to free the mind of all those numerous suggestions and distortions imposed on it by others since childhood and maintained by its own slavish acceptance, total unawareness, or natural incapacity."

   “Before the builder of a house can proceed with the actual putting-up of the edifice, he is compelled to clear the site of all obstructive debris. He who would build the house of a true God-idea must likewise first clear his mind of the false conceptions and false beliefs. How is he to achieve this? He must begin by doubting. He must doubt every principle and every fact which has been hitherto carelessly shoved into the storehouse of memory under the suggestive influence of environment, heredity or education. It is only by struggling through such a wilderness, where the explorer must needs feel lonely and comfort less for a time, that he is likely to reach the promised land. Hence we must first free ourselves of defective conceptions which may once have been quite useful but which now prevent us from perceiving truer ones.”
- Paul Brunton (source misplaced; The Wisdom of the Overself)

   "With the Greeks philosophy began with wonder, with moderns it begins with doubts."

    "You have to begin with your awareness of your ignorance before you can even doubt...Those who lack the capacity for doubt are not fit for [the pursuit of truth]...Wonder possesses implicit doubt, not explicit doubt, and in this sense is the beginning of philosophy. When you are so impressed by anything as to wonder at it then to some extent, however little, you begin to reflect upon it. This leads to realization that there is something about it which you do not understand or know, hence to doubt your grasp of it. This again leads to further inquiry, i.e., philosophy."

   "When a man sees all this diversity and contradiction of beliefs and opinions, he should reflect that there is some foolishness somewhere. This doubt is the beginning of inquiry into truth...The Upanishadic guru teaches only what the seeker can comprehend, until the latter after some period begins to ask further questions or raise doubts. The doubts must arise first....Vedanta inquires: How do you know that the scriptures reveal the truth? How do you know that Maharishi, who may be a perfectly truthful man,, speaks the ultimate truth? How do you know that he is not mistaken? That is the spirit of Vedanta: one must doubt and inquire, and then one must be able to judge."

   "Yoga is easier than philosophic doubt, which involves intellectual difficulty and thinking. When people say that it is said by so and so in scripture or authority, that is because they are intellectually lazy, they do not want to think, their minds want rest. Mandukya Upanishad points out that it is the man who thinks who alone can understand it. Mandukya goes to the very root of the matter. It deals with Truth."
(1) - V.S. Iyer

   "You are not what you think yourself to be...You have never been, nor shall you ever be a person. Refuse to consider yourself as one. But as long as you do not even doubt yourself to be a Mr. So-and-so, then there is little hope." - Nisargadatta Maharaj (I AM THAT)

   There are many aspects to the concept of “doubt” in spiritual life. It has been argued alternately as being an impediment, aid, or requirement for realization; a method employed by astute teachers; or simply an inevitability in the course of ones seeking. At least once to doubt everything one has ever known is said to be the requisite 'emptying of one's cup' of views and preconceptions, about truth and reality, in order to learn and be filled by grace. Yet to continue in overmuch skepticism of the path or the master's wisdom is a lack of faith and trust, and a traditional hindrance to progress towards realization.

   Yes, faith is a fundamental quality basic to the path (please see our article Shraddha), and can be a complete path in itself; but as man is a combination of heart and head, so, paradoxically - for many or perhaps most of us - is doubt or questioning fundamental. In Zen, in particular, there is placed an emphasis on the importance of having equal amounts of faith and doubt. Not sceptical doubt, which is considered a hindrance, but the cultivation of a fundamental sense of wonder on contemplating our unanswered question of existence, most importantly ones such as 'who' is the one who existed before birth and after death? Without a rigorous inquiry into this question, we can easily get sidetracked into settling for various mystical states - which Zen ruthlessly criticizes as being wide of the mark. One spiritual teacher, anadi, succinctly stated:

   "No more questions? In Zen there is a concept about the importance of combining on the Path the elements of Great Faith and Great Doubt. Great faith refers to our trust in the Teaching, in the practice and in our Buddha nature. When this conviction is rooted in us, we simply do not have any doubts. But without Great Doubt we cannot grow either. Without having Great Doubt, we are not moving forwards; we are neither able to transcend the past nor reach the future. Great Doubt represents the intensity of questioning reality and our evolution. Without this element we cannot really co-create our Awakening."

   "That's why asking questions is so important. If you don't have any questions, it means that you don't have doubts; and if you don't have doubts , it means that you are still in the twilight zone. When one is in the twilight zone, there is simply no clarity and the intelligence is not aligned with the awakening process. Formulating questions is an art. In truth, the kind of questions you ask always reflects the state you are in and your level of spiritual evolution."
(Transmission of Awakening, p. 270)

   Jeff Shore, in the introduction to his book Great Doubt on two treatises by the great Zen Master Boshan, writes:

   “If we do not allow great doubt to arise, Zen practice sinks into a kind of sickness. Without great doubt our practice becomes an escape into fall and clear states of mind, insights, or so-called enlightenment experiences that the self assumes will solve all its problems. All the while our fundamental self-delusion is left untouched.” (p. 6-7)

   In short, when we lose our capacity to doubt in this way, we lose truth, we lose wonder. In essence, any state that seems like ultimate certainty is a product of the imagination, albeit a higher imagination, if it lacks this unknowing sense of wonder. The 'I' continues all the way up through the mystical states, but do we know what this 'I' is? Zen and advaita tackle this question from the beginning.

   Thus, 14th century Zen master Zhen stated:

   “Fully trust, you’ll fully doubt; fully doubt, you’ll fully awaken.” (Shore, op. cit., p.2)

   Before jumping into this discussion, it might also be added that a third component is necessary for a complete quest. The great Zen master Hakuin argued that great aspiration must be there to fulfill the Four Great Vows and attain the Mind of Enlightenment (the Bodhisattva’s attitude to serve and save all beings), lest one fall back into evil ways even after“ achieving a realization of non-duality.

   “Since the time of the Buddha Kuruson...every wise and eminent priest who has lacked the Mind of Enlightenment has without exception fallen into the paths of evil...Upon attaining satori, if you continue your practice single-mindedly, extracting the poison fangs and talons of the Dharma cave,...combing through texts of all kinds, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike, accumulating a great store of Dharma wealth, whipping forward the wheel of the Four Universal Vows, pledging yourself to benefit and save all sentient beings while striving every minute of your life to practice the great Dharma giving, and having nothing - nothing - to do with fame or profit in any share or form - you will then be a true and legitimate descendant of the Buddha patriarchs. It’s a greater reward than gaining rebirth as a human or a god.” (Wild Ivy, trans. Norman Waddell, Shambhala, 1999, p. 33, 30)

   Great faith, great doubt, and great aspiration.

   A variation on great aspiration suggested by Kusan Sunim (1901-1983) is great courage:

   “It is important that you cultivate a strong desire to be of benefit to mankind. Such aspiration arises out of compassion. To be motivated by compassion for others produces a much stronger determination to practice than the simple wish to obtain your own liberation from birth and death. In this way you should earnestly devote yourselves to meditation even at the peril of your own life. Furthermore, in order to be able to actually help others, you should seek to emulate the spirit of a great hero. This is necessary because only one who is the greatest hero among heroes is able to accomplish this difficult task. You need supreme courage in order to bring this practice to its completion. To transform this world into a Pure Land and to change ordinary sentient beings into accomplished sages is no easy matter. It is truly the work of a great hero.” (The Way of Korean Zen, p. 118)

   The Great Doubt spoken of in Zen is not merely an intellectual sort of doubting. It arises only after a certain amount of tranquillity is attained, based on fundamental faith or trust in the teachings, when one is then capable of inquiring intensely into the nature of the existential uncertainty underlying all of one's usual states, and most essentially the one having them. It is similar to the inquiry propounded by the sage Ramana Maharshi, i.e., 'who am I ?', in the sense that it becomes the fundamental content of the mind, to the point of an intuition arising in the depths of consciousness eventually leading one to the heart or reality. In Zen they speak of this as a 'great mass of doubt' building up and, when the time is ripe, getting 'smashed.' Prior to this point one is spoken of as feeling 'like an idiot, an imbecile' - all one's knowledge being essentially crushed or undermined. Lest one anticipate such a condition, let it be said that psychological explanations are really inadequate; this is an existential matter.

   And as this is a major topic in itself; let us leave it by saying that the Great Doubt, as well as the fruition of a self-inquiry such as "who am I?", are matters of the ultimate ripening of a soul.


   In Sanskrit shanka is doubt, and rahita is 'without'; thus, the sage Shankara was 'without doubt', all of his doubts having been satisfied. Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita, verse 63, chapter 18, likewise said, "all my doubts have now been cleared." How could they have been cleared if he had not asked questions and demanded proofs? He was not, after all, asked by Krishna to just give up his doubts and believe.

   Nor may it be so simple as some current non-dual teachers quip, that 'it is not about having one's questions answered,' but rather coming to 'question one's answers,' or even 'experiencing the dissolving of the questioner.' The reason is that the latter two positions are subject to misinterpretation and premature dismissal of the power of true questions. Many of these that are beyond one's current capacity to understand may, in fact, be answerable when that understanding matures.

   "Epistemology is the enemy, the devil of yogis, mystics, and religious teachers because it pries into the truth, the source and the validity of the knowledge they claim. Therefore it is the most difficult part of the study of philosophy...Everyone says, "This is a fact. I know. This is my experience." None stops to doubt or to understand, or to inquire as to what is a fact, or what is the definition of experience. The fool takes the simplest path, that of the uninquiring mind, because the other way, the search for truth, is hard and difficult and laborious. Such questions ['how do I know ?'] do not worry the religionist, the mystic, or the ordinary man." - V.S. Iyer

   Brunton adds:

   "The lower mystic uses his mystical experiences as an alibi to justify his mental slothfulness. He knows nothing of that organized systematic effort to answer every question and clear every doubt which the higher mystic had to pass through before he attained the superior grade." (Notebooks, Vol. 134, Part 1, 4.76)

   In this essay we will try to cover the topic from many different angles so as to be as comprehensive as possible, with liberal references to various writers, past and present, on the subject, and also offer suggestions on what to do or not to do about it. The intention of this article is to be of practical use, and not just theory. Please be patient, as it builds as it goes along.

   To begin with, doubt can be either psychological, or existential (or a combination). The first is detrimental to spiritual development, although quite common; the second, in most cases, is perhaps somewhat inevitable on the path if it is to be carried to fruition.

   Regarding the first, one can have a weak, or wounded, ego, with a doubt of one's selfhood, due to childhood pains and abuse, upon which is built a neurotic structure of personality which acts as a shield or protector for the growing child against the threats he perceives, whether real or imagined. This serves him for a while, as the living animate (body-mind complex) is built up, but at some point becomes counterproductive to his further growth. A requirement for dealing with this problem is for the ego to actively take a hand in strengthening and transforming itself, for a weak ego, hiding behind a false mask or persona, is a detriment or obstacle for spiritual growth. There are several ways to approach this. Consider an example: one is put down and criticized for years by one or both parents. The child is hurt, and subsequently develops a false persona to shield himself from the pain. He becomes a do-gooder, a fixer-upper, a 'good' or 'smart' child, trying to earn his self-worth in the eyes of the two most important figures in his life. This inevitably fails as he gets older. He may become a loner or avoid all confrontations, even denying such positive things as his natural talent. In short, he develops doubt of his self-worth, his natural abilities, his loveability, and his right to exist. When the pain of his loneliness and self-implosion becomes great enough, he may resort to some form of spiritual seeking as a remedy for his dilemma and a way out of his (unconsciously generated) pain. I know I have been guilty of this - and still have the tendency for it. Or one simply seeks a way out of any life discomfort, such as economic pressure or emotional distress. These ultimately and hopefully become recognized as forms of avoidance. Jeff Brown, in the beautiful book,
Soulshaping, uses a similar metaphor. He speaks of "ascending with both feet on the ground." For the soul will always come back for what is left behind. Otherwise, while most of the world are engaged in forms of "material bypass" the seeker succumbs to forms of "spiritual bypass," or ignoring the body and life in his efforts to become spiritual. Brown writes:

   "Although appearing spiritual, bypassers are actually cut off from various aspects of reality. By turning away from old pain, they shackle themselves with their unresolveds. With their head in the clouds, they cannot see where they are walking. This may be a tool for survival for a time, but real growth demands that we come back down to earth and face our demons. We have to grow down, to grow up....Any movement away from reactivity is a movement towards our truth...Knowing why you do something is not enough to heal you...If we do not deal with the emotional body itself, there is very little chance of healing our defensive patterns." (2)

   He continues:

   "In some sense, the word enlightenment is misleading. It is no more about the light than the dark. In Carl Jung's words, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." Resisting the shadow just makes it darker. We must turn toward it - honor the nervous breakthrough with great regard! - so that we can taste the reality that waits on the other side. It is not about becoming permanently blissful. It is about becoming more authentic, more genuinely here. It is about holding the light and the shadow all at once. Perhaps we should call it enrealenment, or enheartenment? Moving forward on the path demands that we develop a positive, working relationship with our discomfort. In a distracted world, pain is a direct portal to the real. In addition to the lessons it teaches us, it can open the gate to Buddhaland." (3)

   He issues a caveat:

   "On the healing journey, many of us devote a lot of our energy to healing our trauma. Sometimes we are focussed on our pain for many years without experiencing any real pleasure. But when we are ready, we have to remember to invite pleasure into our daily experience. Good feelings are a manifestation of our healing, but they are also essential to it. Pleasure nourishes and strengthens us. This is often missed in the therapeutic movement." (4)

   And there is also understanding. Shri Atmananda Krishnamenon said:

   “Your will never succeed in bringing in light, if you insist upon removing all the darkness from your room before you do so. Therefore simply ignore the ego and try to understand, and the understanding itself will remove the ego.” (Notes on Spiritual Discourses, #847)

   So all the parts of a man are to be brought into play and developed, albeit perhaps not in one lifetime. But we should have patience and compassion, because as Hafiz says:

   "Hafiz, there is no one in this world who is not looking for God. Everyone is trudging along with as much dignity, courage and style as they possibly can."

   Paul Brunton (PB) philosophically writes:

   "How can a man fully express himself unless he fully develops himself? The spiritual evolution which requires him to abandon the ego runs parallel to the mental evolution which requires him to perfect it." (5)

   And the ego, moreover, denigrated to total disregard by many traditional spiritual paths, is never actually destroyed or abandoned, for it is part of the World-Idea and a vehicle for consciousness to embody, manifest, and articulate Itself. [For a precise explanation of PB's terms and teachings, such as Mind, World-Mind, World-Idea, and Overself, which the reader will see throughout this paper, please click here]. It may, in fact, actually get more expanded and functional in the enlightened man, in a positive way, contrary to what the ascetic, 'dissociative' traditions say is required. This is a new era requiring a new approach to spirituality. We cannot return to the world, body, and ego-negating teachings of the past.


   Certain basic things must be in place for one to have a platform for true sadhana: basic things, like a right livelihood, relationships, dharma or purpose. One must be a functional human being. As has been said, "one must become something before he becomes nothing." Yes, that is what some have said. However, is it true? Not exactly. The most fundamental thing one must have to begin is the conviction that this life is permeated with suffering, and that there is something higher than one's accustomed mode of limited and limiting self. This means faith. If one waits until he has achieved full blossoming as an ego or human character he may never begin spiritual life, and thereby lack the most important means [namely, inner light or insight] for eradicating his character flaws, or neurotic adaptations in their myriad forms. However, it is also true that part of true spiritual life has always been the building of an ethical base. There are two ways of approaching this. First is the 'negative' way, one used by the Pythagoreans, in which the aspirant during the day is mindful of himself, even keeping a 'scorecard', as Anthony Damiani once said, that is, keeping track at the end of the day of ones failures in categories such as truthfulness, non-violence, lust or excessive desire, pride, vanity, blame, anger, selfless service, and so on. One must develop a keen awareness of the wiles and trickery of the ego, or rather the quality of egotism in oneself. This has been the traditional way - where the goal, however, is eventual flight from the plane of manifestation into a dissociative Nirvana unto oneself, which is the case even in many who teach that All, or the Self, is nothing but consciousness. Very few teachers take the position of the philosophic sage, where the ego is positive in as much as it is a part of the World-Idea, and an expression of Infinite Mind, and thus an essential part of realization and achieving one's life purpose. As PB said:

   "Each human being has a specific work to do - to express the uniqueness that is himself. It can be delegated to no one else. In doing it, if he uses the opportunity aright, he may be led to the great Uniqueness which is superpersonal, beyond his ego and behind all egos. (6)

   And this great Uniqueness (7) is not a dissociative one either. The realizer becomes part and parcel of the World-Idea and co-operates with it.

   PB also remarks:

   "The Overself will overshadow him. It will take possession of his body. There will be a mystical union of its mind with his body. The ego will become entirely subordinate to it." (8)

   Thus, the ego is not actually to be destroyed as the yogis say, for:

   "The ego to which he is attached turns out on enquiry to be none other than the presence of World-Mind within his own heart. If identification is then shifted by constant practice from one to the other, he has achieved the purpose of life." (9)

   Right here PB is presaging what some of the more balanced emerging western teachers are saying today, that there has to be a true marriage between consciousness and its manifestations , and that when that takes place, as PB suggested, the sage "works for the World-Idea." Or in other words, he comes to embody the Bodhisattva vow.

   Returning to our former line of thought on psychological approaches to dealing with the wounded ego: while the 'negative' way of engaging in a great battle with it and an ideal of perfection may by itself invoke ones shadow side, bringing it into the light of day, for many it can also enhance ones neurotic tendencies, feelings of inferiority, and so on, and even make one be less inclined to give his attention to the plane of life - which is not to be excluded in a mature spirituality. In this instance either a cognitive, psychodynamic or bioenergetic approach may be undertaken, followed by courageous action contrary to ones habitual tendencies.

   The Yoga Vasistha proclaims:

   "Give up all your doubts. Resort to moral courage."

   There are several things one can do at this point. One is to explore the roots of his past, particularly his deeply repressed or denied feelings, and try to put words to them. If one feels deeply enough the words will come by themselves. This is important to create a conscious connection between different levels of the brain. Feeling basic, primal feelings such as fear, sorrow, shame, and anger (which are covered over by what can be called "protectors", such as boredom, doubt, discomfort, procrastination, avoidance, shyness), and ultimately the hurt and need that underlies them, enables much of ones current "story" that has been overlaid or constructed as a defense against these feelings to begin to dissipate. Four good books on this subject are Self-Therapy by Jay Early, The Mandala of Being by Richard Moss, Reclaiming Your Life by Alice Miller, and Wake Up Now by Stephan Bodian.

   PB recognizes that in some cases this may be the only approach that will work:

   "When his feelings are really a conscious or unconscious cover for other feelings, nothing will help, save the uncovering of what the ego has hidden." (9a)

   However, he also reminds us to look at the bigger picture as well:

   "It is fashionable in some circles to fix the blame for a man's erring proclivities on his faulty upbringing - or lack of it - by parents, or on his companions, temptations, and surroundings. But are they so much to blame as the man himself? And is he not the victim, the resultant, of his own prenatal past? And even this is not the ultimate cause of his sinning. He is misled by ignorance - without understanding of his deepest self and without knowledge of life's higher laws."

   "He can begin to change his life for the better when he realizes how long he has mentally been unconsciously building it up for the worse. The same energy which has been directed into negative thoughts can then be directed into positive ones. Were it not for the stubbornness of habit, it would not be harder to do this than to do its opposite."

   "The way to get rid of an obstinate negative feeling is to supersede it by a new positive one of greater intensity. Right thoughts about the wrong feeling will help to correct it, right imaginations about the new one help to bring it in, but feeling must be invoked and fostered if success is to be attained."

   Thus another approach for this ground-level work, or 'housecleaning', is a more cognitive one, which may accompany and/or reduce some of the aforementioned pitfalls of the former regressive method. Here one observes his thought patterns, again becoming conscious of his protectors, as well as habitual modes of mentalizing, such as "catastrophizing," "black or white thinking","emotional reasoning", "mind-reading", "inferiority", "superiority", "not good enough", etc.. This can also be combined with mindfulness, and, in fact, is a psychological off-shoot of the mindfulness tradition. These lead him to the next necessary thing, which is to act in new ways to make these habits what could be called "obsolete by non-use." A key technique here is "opposite action." For example, if one is always avoiding something, he would go and do it anyway in spite of his fear. This may take many tries. But eventually, as Mark Twain said, "Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain."


   A participant in a Twelve-Step program had this to say about the power of 'opposite action':

   “What I've learned is that taking action is almost always the gateway into feeling better. Rarely have I been able to think my way into different behavior or results, instead it's only when I take action (especially when I don't want to) that things begin to shift, and I begin feeling better.The program, like life, doesn't work when I'm into thinking, only when I'm into action. It's interesting how, even with this knowledge and experience, my mind still tells me not to do the things that will make me feel better. Often I'd rather watch TV than go to a meeting, rest after work than go to the gym, procrastinate rather than take action. The good news, though, is that it always works out for the best when I go ahead and take action anyway. Whenever I bring my body, my mind always follows...”

   "Do the thing and you shall have the power," adds Emerson. What power? A power of the Soul. The Soul has powers, which, if unexercised, might as well not exist. Develop that power and you regain your Soul, says Anthony Damiani. Or "fake it 'til you make it," as they say in AA. Obviously, that will only go so far. The theory is that changes of behavior can eventually change feelings which will make the personal overlay called the 'story' unnecessary. These actions, of course, will produce a sense of vulnerability, and deeper, core feelings may arise. [If one goes deep enough, he may even recognize fear as a 'protector', protecting the separative self-sense from the painful experience of an empty personal void]. Holding these feelings in the light of awareness, however difficult, is the way to move beyond them and their crippling effects, and, in essence, to distinguish consciousness from its sensations. This is usually difficult if impossible to do outside of relationship, as isolation from relationship is often part of the problem. To consciously go into the dark places of the psyche may take a helping hand. There is no blame in this, in fact it is usually a necessary part of the process. This can understandably go beyond psychology per se. Honest tears help dissolve the hard crust of ego. Fear is perhaps the most difficult because it often cannot be cried out, although there may be tears beneath it. It can be either a 'protector' or a core feeling. In either case one usually needs the help of someone who can be there in a supportive, skillfull, and non-judgemental way for one to safely go into the depths of these feelings. Alice Miller explains:

   "Living with the fear" (or any other painful feeling) simply means letting the discomfort remain in your body, without trying to get rid of it. [Cognitive Behavioral therapists call this "radical acceptance", i.e., what you 'do' when nothing else works; Eckhart Tolle also recommends this when feeling Presence seems beyond ones capacity] This is very hard to do; we have spent our lives automatically attempting to protect ourselves. Changing to unconditional acceptance will take time and effort. It means being willing to maintain almost constant vigilance over what you are feeling and allowing to happen to you, day after day, hour after hour. Surrendering to something you have always unconsciously believed could kill you is something that can be done only little by little. It will take both time and energy." (10)

   Richard Moss similarly writes:

   "If, as you step back into the Now position, you cannot find the compassion to see others as they are and accept them that way, if instead the old stories keep pulling you out of your beginning and into resentment or hurt, it is because underneath these painful feelings lurks an even more threatening feeling, one of the untamed emotions. Perhaps it is a core feeling of worthlessness, or a terrible sensation of abandonment that has crystalized into a belief...This primal fear will not go away simply because you can recognize the falseness of your you stories. You cannot truly come back to the beginning of yourself until this feeling is fully met and held in the Now....When we begin to consciously face feelings that do not immediately dissipate even when they are no longer reinforced by thought, it means we are uncovering fears that our faith is not yet great enough to allow. We are getting to the root of our present survival structures. This is deep work, the darkest hour before the dawn. But even at the darkest times, the power of awareness abides: we are always larger than what we are aware of. By trusting this truth and resting in the Now of ourselves, embracing anything at all that we feel, we steadily build muscle until we are no longer accepting our limited identities, no longer the victims of our stories about others. More and more, we live authentically in the fullness of our beings." (11)

   To give another example, one may feel like expressing himself, through words or creative arts, but feels, based on his childhood upbringing, that he is not good enough, that no one cares or will like him or what he has to say, with the result that he thereby is denying his gifts to the world and the full expression of his soul. This form of self-doubt will be lessened by either or both of the aforementioned approaches. A key is moral fortitude, faith, or willingness to change and try something new. This can be considered ground-level 'sadhana', if you will, to eradicate disabling forms of self-doubt.

   Of primary importance is staying with the disabling feelings until they have revealed their truth. It is not only about clearing past traumas, but of opening avenues for ones soul-purpose. Brown talks about some of the ways of avoiding the real issues before they are resolved. Here he uses crying as an example:

   "I began to analyze my feelings to avoid feeling them. Whenever I felt the impulse to cry I would find myself thinking through my suffering, as though thinking alone could heal me: What are the roots of my negativity? How did this suffering impact my development? Eventually, the feelings would fade. Mission accomplished - I was again a numb-skull." (12)

   There are subtle nuances to this process:

   "As I went deeper, I began to touch the grief below. Every time I touched it, I jumped back into anger. By staying angry, I didn't have to surrender to my heartbreak, didn't have to cry. I call this the 'anger bypass', in the same way as someone who cries to avoid feeling other emotions is doing the 'crying bypass'." (13)

   " 'Forgive and forget' has become a mantra of emotional health and heightened consciousness. Of course, forgiveness is a beautiful thing, but it is essential that it arise organically. Many of us claim to have forgiven while still holding toxic emotions below the surface: the 'forgiveness bypass'. The truth is that we cannot will ourselves into forgiveness. If we try to forgive before we have moved the feelings, inauthenticity blocks our path. We cannot be in the real, because we are not emotionally real." (14)

   "Be careful not to go into your head. There is a meaningful difference between a cerebral interpretation of an experience ("I know why this came into my life") and an embodied awareness of it ("I feel why this came into my life"). Unless your knowing arises from your felt experience, it is meaningless. Stay with the emotional process until your soul food is digested. It will be difficult at times, but the feelings will only hurt until they convert. Repressed emotions are unactualized spiritual lessons. Once they make it all the way through the conversion tunnel, the lesson will be revealed." (15)

   "Bringing our soul lessons through takes more than awareness. It is an active process that demands a courageous willingness to live our experiences right through to completion. This means staying with our feelings until they are truly done with us, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Although we may not see it at first, there is a method to our sadness." (16)

   Again he issues a caveat:

   "Sometimes healing is more about creating the right conditions for growth than releasing old pain. Before I could deeply release, I needed to distance myself from the battlegrounds of early life and taste a gentler reality...And what of the role of spirit in the therapy itself? How does a client who has known only bleakness keep the faith to do endless trauma recovery work without sensing a more positive force around her? What about introducing her to a benevolent universe? The benefits of daily spiritual practice? What about the role of our inner guidance, our daimons and angels? What about God as a buffer to hardship?" (17)

   Sometimes we need to persevere a little more, perhaps alot more, but sometimes we may need to simply say, "no, I have been down this track too many times, and it is no longer very fruitful and time to move past it", using the power of will to say, "yes" to the way one wants to be and knows he really is. To say "yes" to positive aspirations, dreams, and goals. It is hard to say what is right for every individual case.

   So here we see a balanced viewpoint seeking to meet the needs of varying levels of aspirants. Sometimes our defenses need to remain in place while we strengthen our faith. It is not all about sturm und drang.


   Another lesser-known aspect of such work is the activation of the imagination. This is important to help one out of well-worn ruts of thinking. According to contemporary teacher Anadi, imagination, odd as it may at first appear, is actually a necessary quality for realization. A good book dealing with this topic is The Faith to Doubt: Glimpses of Buddhist Uncertainty by Stephen Bachelor, a long-time Buddhist monk and writer who achieved a freeing of defensiveness and rigidity via a Jungian type of therapy called "Sandplay". He attributes the freedom and safety of the therapeutic environment as helping unleash his self-expression in a way that the monastic could not. So we have many avenues available to us that the ancients did not.

   Other newer techniques have proven to be shorter, powerful, and as effective as traditional therapies. These include
EFT and others, which can be employed whenever one feels the need for them.

   It should be pointed out that it is not necessary in all cases for this to be done first, before spiritual practice is engaged; it may, in fact, be done concurrently, or as the need of the Soul to work on parts of the ego arises. It may, that is, need to be worked on even after realization of the Conscious Witness (!), in some cases, when one finds he still has difficulties functioning in life, job, relationships, or whatever. This is something the solitary yogi or even sage often never does, traditionally at least. Fear is often lurking in the background, primarily the existential fear of giving oneself fully to Life, without always hiding out in the witness, either embodied or disembodied. This is somewhat paradoxical because if one is established in the witness he has achieved disidentification with himself as an 'entity'. Yet turning away from appearances or the world assumes that the appearances and the world are separate from awareness (a primary dualism). It may be a necessary first step, getting established in the witness. But to go thus from knowing 'who' one is (consciousness) to knowing 'what' one is (embodied non-dual consciousness) may occur spontaneously, if the witness identification is strong (see Greg Goode on the collapsing of the witness into non-dual awareness), or it may take a passage through fear, followed by a radical letting go, as well as metaphysical understanding - or, for some, perhaps just a withering away of the search.

   Speaking of his own case, Ayashanti notes these two phases in the awakening process:

   “When this awakeness happened, it hung out for awhile in its own rarefied place of emptiness, divorced from human experience. That was a nice place, and it's often a very useful part of one's unfolding to experience this and hang out there...Awareness wakes up from form and experiences itself totally independent of form. Of course, it is independent of form. When I noticed that it had this momentum when it seemed that it would forever have very little to do with form, and was very pleased to do so, all of a sudden it was like going around in a circle. You get farther and farther away as you travel around...When you get halfway around the circle, all of a sudden the rest of the way you're going back, back, back...There is a movement of inherent love for everything in the body-mind that had any amount of conflict, of suffering. This beingness or awakeness inherently had a tendency to move toward unawakeness or suffering—to welcome it back into its true nature. It was nothing that was intended, but I just noticed it happening. It welcomed back and welcomed back and it would touch everything that was untouched. It inherently seemed not to be satisfied with a grand exit from the world of time and space. It was satisfied with that for a while, but then its deeper nature brought it back in. This was real deep love, because in one sense it was a dangerous thing to do. As our birth shows, it's dangerous for this whole thing to come into form..."

     This second phase is what PB called the harder of the two. When it is achieved the sage lives both in time and the timeless. Adya also makes a distinction in describing two types of ‘witness’ position, a traditional ‘disembodied type’ and a more embodied form:

   “To me there's the witness that's often talked about in spirituality, the witness that is transcendent of and inherently different from the object which it witnesses. This kind of witness is, at least in part, a creation of mind. To witness in this independent way is not really the movement of our true nature. In relation to this whole idea of embodiment and the unwinding of one's own conditioning, this distant witness has very little effect on the most powerful elements of our conditioned self. Witnessing certain parts of our own conditioning from the outside is enough for relatively minor or not so deeply entrenched parts of separateness to melt away. Yet that simply doesn't work for the deep, really core remaining pieces. There needs to be a deeper death into what is - a yielding to being awake. Otherwise we're using our own awakeness to distance ourselves, rather than yielding - to what it really means to be fully awake. What it means to be fully awake is to be not only fully conscious but to be fully feeling, to be fully experiencing. On the level of our body-mind we literally feel that we are "watching-experiencing." This is the true nature of the self: watching-experiencing. Even when we're watching, there is always experience. If we don't try to play the watcher in our mind, there's this very natural and effort-less watching-experiencing. One doesn't even have to try to do it. On the level of experience, when we're watching, we now feel that we're watching from inside our experience, or in the midst of it. The paradox is that the watching, even though it's inside experience and all around experience, it is not caught by experience. It's not identified even though it's so mixed in there that you can't distinguish it. The touching of awareness with experience enables this. It is a spontaneous act of love when we're watching from the inside with a willingness to yield back into our own experience.”(18)

   He also issues this precaution for teachers to contemplate:

   “Awakening isn't the answer for everything. I found out early that it could be absolutely the worst thing that could happen for some people.” (19)

   PB made a similar point:

   "At a certain stage of development, it is more important to work hard at self-improvement and to detect hidden weaknesses and remedy them than to attempt anything else.” (20)

   Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche goes so far as to warn the prospective spiritual aspirant ahead of time:

   "My advice to you is not to undertake the spiritual path. It is too difficult, too long, and it is too demanding. What I would suggest, if you haven't already begun, is to go to the door, ask for your money back, and go home now,this is not a picnic. It is really going to ask everything of you and you should understand that from the beginning. So it is best not to begin. However, if you do begin, it is best to finish." (21)

   It is truly a sacred ordeal, and not a cake-walk - albeit paradoxical, and with no fixed rules. What is interesting to realise, however, is that we now have technologies of awakening that the ancients did not have, and which allow us to go deeper than the traditions have allowed - or even advocated. This whole idea of "embodiment," for instance, is a new development in human history, and is discussed at some length in the article Dual Non-Dualism: Part Four - "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" on this website.

   In all this it is important to keep in mind that the ego itself is part of the evolving World-Idea, the manifestation of the World-Mind. PB states:

   "His first mental act is to think himself into being. He is the maker of his own "I." This does not mean that the ego is his own personal invention alone. The whole world-process brings everything about, including the ego and the ego's own self-making." (22)

   To which Damiani comments:

   "That's mentalism in a nutshell. That's the whole mentalistic doctrine. The Soul has for its content the World-Idea, and it actualizes that or projects that World-Idea out from within itself. And included in that World-Idea is the ego and the process it's going to go through...As your ego is evolving, the world is evolving with it. Think of the whole World-Idea as contained within each individual Soul. Each individual Soul projects the World-Idea, but first it has to have the intermediary of an ego through which the world gets projected. All that exists within the Overself, within the Soul itself...The ego has a definite role and it has to fulfill that role before it can realize what the Source of Being is for it...There is a special uniqueness that an individual lives, and the closer it conforms to the World-Idea, the closer it conforms to the great Uniqueness. Your ego is part of the World-Idea. As it evolves it will conform more and not less to the World-Idea. Eventually you'll be pushed right into the World-idea and be like part and parcel of the World-Idea. Then you are the great Uniqueness. When you stop seeing yourself as a personality, distinct and separate from everyone else, and you can see that also from within the realm of the whole of the impersonal, then you are at the level of the great Uniqueness." (23)

   So this poor ego has its place in the scheme of things, and even the sage will work on it from time to time if he feels it needs a certain development.


   Colin Drake, author of Beyond the Separate Self, argues against regression work, in particular, or anything remotely involving examination of the past, saying that such work only gives life to the old feelings and sensations instead of letting go of them, emphasizing only the direct observation of feelings and sensations and the recognition of the awareness behind them. This works, of course, for some people, some of the time - like all methods. He says:

   “I have heard from many people who, having glimpsed this deeper level [awareness], continue to argue for the value of ‘working through past experiences’, and in this they are dishonouring that which they have glimpsed. For the only way that you can completely work through past experiences is to totally let them go, and not buy into them when they reoccur in the mind or body. They will continue to come up, but any attention that is lavished on them only feeds and strengthens them; when ignored they are starved of attention and their reoccurrences will slowly peter out. By ‘ignored’ this do not mean ‘suppressed’, for this will also strengthen them, but just allowed to ‘come and go’ with no weight being given to them. As soon as you start telling yourself a story about what they mean, or how they have affected you, you are back at the surface level of the ‘separate self’ and the ego. If the physical feelings are too strong to ignore they can be defused by going completely into them without any ‘story’, and noticing that they are just sensations which have arisen and will subside quite naturally.”

[If this doesn’t work, which, as Moss above suggests, might well be the case, and easier said than done, for anyone who has had significant suffering in life, the regression method suggested earlier may be employed, realizing that in that way, as well, one must simply stay with feelings and bodily sensations until they ‘drop’ to a deeper level and reveal their secret; an actual connection is made between different levels of brain structures, the limbic and the neo-cortex, and previously suffered - but not fully felt and expressed - pain is made consciousness and released. There is a feeling and a conscious connection made. This reduces suffering. Dealing at the mental level with one’s ‘story’ is then much easier. Even in this feeling approach, then, there is a mindfulness component, as one starts in the present and then recaptures the past, enabling one to leave it forever. For many people with deep wounds this may be the way to go at certain times in their sadhana. Obviously, it should not be prolonged into a lifelong quest to "get well." If that goes on one will never have an identity shift and wake up.]

   Drake continues:

   “It is the telling of the story that prolongs [the feelings and sensations], feeds them and invites them to reoccur. However, even these unpleasant memories/feelings point directly to pure awareness for this is where they occur and are noticed by the mind. This brings up a very important point: any time where there is any mental suffering caused by identifying with painful thoughts, or feelings, this should be a wake-up call to the fact that we are misidentifying. Any mental suffering can be used as a direct pointer back to the deeper level of our being: pure awareness.” (24)

   Teacher anadi partly agrees with this approach:

   “The weight of the past neither should be overestimated or underestimated. In modern therapies, there is a tendency to give too much importance to the past. By focusing too much on the past, like in the case of primal therapy, you actually intensify past issues; you actually create your problems by believing in them. You can’t deal with your past problems by believing in them. You can deal with your past problems only from the place of freedom, that is, from the Now. The I Am is your ultimate and only refuge from the past. If you abide in the I Am, the very light of its presence will cleanse the unwanted energies from your past. This cleansing is a function of Grace.” (25)

   I said that he partly agrees. He elsewhere says abiding in the I Am without work on the personality, and work on the personality without abiding in the I AM, are both incomplete ways of evolving. This is fundamentally true.

   One, certainly, can always try being mindful, that is, to try to bring awareness into ones experience . This may be the form of 'radical acceptance' to especially be used when dealing with fear, one of the deeper, more fundamental survival feelings, and difficult to move beyond. In Buddha's Body we read:

   "Anxiety, dread, apprehension, worry, and even panic are just mental states like any other. Recognize fear when it arises, observe the feeling of it in your body, watch it try to convince you that you should be alarmed, see it change and move on. [This is basically the approach that Drake recommends] Verbally describe to yourself what you are feeling, to increase frontal lobe regulation of the limbic system." (26)

   One can see that this is more of a 'top-down' approach than that of conscious regression. With mindfulness, one attempts to 'regulate' the limbic system, especially the amygdala, where unexpressed feelings reside, whereas with regression, for those with deeper problems, one attempts to establish a conscious connection between different (previously unconscious or disconnected) levels of the brain, the limbic and the pre-frontal cortex, providing lasting relief as well as a feeling-understanding. As Arthur Janov wrote, "the suffering component of these traumatic imprints [which reside in a different part of the brain than the actual memory] needs to be brought to prefrontal cortical consciousness for awareness and connection." One thus reclaims part of oneself.

   A welcome non-dual approach to therapy is described in the following excerpt from the book, The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy, in which one both supports and does not support the conditional self:

   "We meet the client where they are. If they believe that they have a problem, and certainly there will be compelling evidence to support such an interpretation, we join them there and begin the process of intimately exploring what the actual experience of the "problem" is. As apparent problems are gradually unpacked and clients deepen in their self-intimacy, they will eventually encounter a profound sense of emptiness that has been fiercely defended against. They discover that their prior problems were all outcomes from and compensatory expressions of this defense against what at first appears to be annihilation and in time reveals itself as unconditional love. When we believe that we are not enough, we think, feel, and act in all kinds of ways that create suffering for ourselves and others. Yet even this avoidance of emptiness is not seen as a problem. It is simply a misunderstanding of our true nature that is fundamentally empty—of everything we have taken to be true about ourselves and the world. This misunderstanding is also part of the divine play. Facing emptiness either will or will not occur depending upon the motivation and readiness of the client. It is not up to the therapist, who is free of any agenda, to change things as they are." (27)

   In short, their ideal approach is leading the client to: accept the energy of fear, embrace the wisdom of no escape, and merge with the empty space of non-being.


   This debate over therapy as an adjunct versus 'pure' practice is succinctly contrasted in the following two, well-written articles: Even the Best Meditators Have Old Wounds to Heal, by Jack Kornfield, and Still Crazy After All These Years: Why Meditation Isn't Therapy, by Patrick Kearney. Both sides have their merits.

   A former primaller insightfully recounts the issues that led him to return to his
Buddhist roots.

   Jeff Foster speaks on this debate in his essay Therapy Without A Therapist. He also presents a refreshing, balanced non-dual view on the issue of suffering:

   "The Advaita concept “THERE IS NOBODY HERE WHO SUFFERS! THERE IS NO SUFFERING!” doesn’t even begin to capture the richness of human experience and the possible beauty in suffering. Although in an ultimate sense it might be true, nobody lives in ‘an ultimate sense’ – and if they think they do, I wonder what sort of denial is going on. When suffering is understood and therefore loved, there is no need to deny it in this way – all human experience is embraced in this seeing… and that’s really the end of seeking, now, now and now. The end of seeking, right at the heart of this human experience. No need for any talk of the ‘impersonal’ – the appearance of the personal contains all the grace that’s needed. All Advaita/Nondual concepts dissolve into the clarity of life itself. That’s true freedom, I feel." (28)

   Ramana Maharshi's recommendation was generally along the lines of a continuing self-inquiry. As each doubt or depression arises, he would say, ask yourself, "Who is it that doubts?" and "What is it that is depressed?", etc.. Go constantly back to the question, "Who is the 'I', and "where is it?", keeping two things in mind. One, the answer is not an intellectual one but experiential. And two, the 'I' of the enquiry refers not to the Atman, as commonly supposed, but to the ego. Thus, an alternate form of the enquiry as given by Maharishi is "what is this me?" It is not an escapist technique, even though its form appears cognitive. Zen would say that asking reflectively “what is this me?,” “where was it before birth and where will it be after death?” - both unanswerable to the mind - will intensify the feeling of our basic unknowingness, eventually superseding all other questions and thoughts. In other words, the doubt or wonder will bring us back to the central great question, instead of letting us drift into mental fantasies or mystical stats. This will be the building up or rousing of the “doubt-mass,” or Great Doubt, which will one day collapse leading to the realization of the hidden perceiver: consciousness, the “real I.”

   For some this alone may be adequate, while for many others it may only, at least initially, be of use randomly and concurrently with other methods. At the least, self-enquiry should be understood in a broad form and not remain formulaic if the feeling nature also is to be liberated and not bypassed. Thus, always and everywhere there are doorways for getting at the question, "Who am I?" “What is this me?” - and later, “what is the world,” and “what is its relationship with me, and with the soul?”

   So, while diverting somewhat and jumping ahead in the last few paragraphs, these are a few of the approaches one can take when dealing with the more psychological forms of self-doubt.


   There is another form of doubt, a healthy doubt in the early stages of ones quest, which is doubt of a teacher and his teaching. Though, in fact, doubt of the Teacher, the Teaching, and the Order (Sangha) in Buddhism are considered the first three of five obstacles to progress (Majjhima Nikaya), it is, in the beginning, not incompatible with free inquiry and critical examination, which must be undertaken, in order to gain certainty and trust that this is the way for one to follow. Finding a true teacher will also to a great extent depend on ones karmic background which will draw one to him. Finding such a teacher has been considered an essential on all paths. Practice of the teachings will then turn doubt into true faith, and faith is

   "humanity's best wealth in this world, and through faith one is said to cross the flood of the world. It is..one of the five-fold requisites to the cessation of suffering." (29)

   But the wounded ego is crafty. Once one has confidence in the Teacher and the Teaching, he may fall back on, "the Teacher is good, the Teaching is good, but I am no good, and can't do it." This self-doubt must be recognized for what it is - a defense against practice, and an old feeling/story - which will fade away as one deepens his faith, understanding and devotion.

   Soamiji Maharaj, the Saint of Beas, said:

   "Leaving all doubts, thy love do thou make firm, and have staunch faith. This practice I'll get done by thee myself; and into the Durbar (court) of the highest Absolute Lord shall I take thee." (30)

   Buddha promised:

   "Whosoever, Ananda, will have faith in me, I shall save him. Since they have taken refuge in me, they will be as my friends." (31)

   [The topic of faith or firm resolve (Shraddha) is the subject of another article in this series.]

   To return to our original consideration, what we have been discussing, with some unavoidable side-tracking, has been primarily one form of doubt: doubt of ones self-worth, ones right to live fully, ones right to exist on this planet. These more or less psychological forms of doubt are nevertheless necessary to address in order for the Soul to be able to 'come forth' into full embodiment.

   There is also the form of doubt which is simply the honest doubt of the extent of one's knowledge, which fuels inquiry and the search for answers to life's riddles. Doubts, in fact, must arise, in order to be cleared. Voltaire said:

   “Doubt is uncomfortable, but certainty is ridiculous.”

   anadi writes:

   "In Zen there is a concept about the importance of combining on the Path the elements of Great Faith and Great Doubt. Great Faith refers to our trust in the Teaching, in the practice and in our Buddha nature. When this conviction is rooted in us, we simply do not have any doubts. But without Great Doubt we cannot grow either. Without having Great Doubt, we are not moving forwards; we are neither able to transcend the past or reach the future. Great Doubt represents the intensity of questioning reality and our evolution [It also has a special meaning relating to the state of Satori in Zen which will be discussed shortly]. Without this element we cannot really co-create our Awakening."

   "That's why asking questions is so important. If you don't have any questions, it means you don't have doubts, and if you don't have doubts, it means you are still in the twilight zone. When one is in the twilight zone, there is simply no clarity and the intelligence is not aligned with the awakening process. Formulating questions is an art. In truth, the kind of questions you ask always reflects the state you are in and your level of spiritual evolution."

   A kind of progression of doubts on the path are quite archtypal. First, one begins to doubt if his normal life being satisfied with just 'getting along' is really going to do it for him. That begins to crumble, and then he may turn to religious faith. At some point he may doubt if that is enough, that maybe there is more, and he turns to yoga or mysticism for a more experiential route to truth. He has not yet doubted whether the ego itself is real, so this stage could occupy himself and his ego for a long time, perhaps a lifetime or more. But inevitably, at some point, if he is lucky, or destiny forces him, he begins to notice that this, too, is not the ultimate path, so he is then somehow in some way introduced to philosophy, or more so-called direct paths such as advaita, Zen, advanced Buddhism, or other like nondual approaches. Finally, his doubts begins to center on whether or not he is himself actually capable of achieving the goal of enlightenment as portrayed in these teachings, and he may fall into profound existential despair. This represents the 'break-point', or, perhaps more aptly put, the point of no return.

   These are subtle, existential forms of self-doubt that are not only symptoms of psychological emptiness, or of chronic scepticism. In this case doubt is a form of manifestation of the emptiness of one's true nature, and is therefore his ally, if he but recognized it and had the endurance or faith to bear with it. Edward Salim Michael writes:

   "There is always more to know and understand. From the very start of the quest, the aspirant must learn constantly to bear within himself an inner state of questioning, failing which he can neither hope to reach a state of being and consciousness that does not refer to the tangible world, nor attain a holy form of knowledge that is, in truth, his very heritage." (32a)

   Here is an even more pointed example from the traditions. Edward Conze speaks from a Buddhist perspective about a fundamental anxiety at the core of our being. One can, I feel, easily exchange the word 'doubt' for 'anxiety ' here:

   "..there is in the core of our being a basic anxiety, a little empty hole from which all other forms of anxiety and unease draw their strength. In its pure form, this anxiety is experienced only by people with an introspective and philosophical turn of mind, and even then only rarely. If one has never felt it oneself, no amount of explanation will convince. If one has felt it, one will never forget, however much one may try. It may come upon you when you have been asleep, withdrawn from the world; you wake up in the middle of the night and feel a kind of astonishment at being there, which then gives way to a fear and horror at the mere fact of being there. It is then that you catch yourself by yourself, just for a moment, against the background of a kind of nothingness all around you, and with a gnawing sense of your powerlessness, your utter helplessness in the face of this astonishing fact that you are there at all. Usually, we avoid this experience as much as we possibly can, because it is so shattering and painful. People who are busy all the time, who must always think of something, who must always be doing something, are incessantly running away from this experience of the basic or original anxiety. What we usually do is to lean and to rely on something else than this empty centre of ourselves. The Buddhist contention is that we will never be at ease before we have overcome this basic anxiety, and that we can do that only by relying on nothing at all." (33)

   Gangaji speaks on this very point:

   "A deep sadness or hurt may be revealed under fear. This, too, can be directly and completely experienced with no need of a storyline. If you are willing to experience these emotional layers all the way through, you will finally approach what appears to be a deep abyss. This abyss is what the mind perceives as nothingness, emptiness, nobody-ness. This is an important moment, because the willingness to be absolutely nothing, to be nobody, is the willingness to be free. All these other emotional states are layers of defense against this experience of nothingness - the death of who you think you are. Once the defenses are down, once the door is open, then this nothingness that has been feared can be met fully. This meeting is the revelation of true self-inquiry, revealing the secret gem of truth that has been hidden in the core of your own heart all along. The diamond discovered is you." (34)

   Here is another example. In Zen, for instance, one hears, for advance practitioners, of the state of the “Great Doubt” that "burns like a ball of red-hot fire that one can neither swallow nor spit out". One may wonder if at least part of the meaning behind the choice of this metaphor refers to the hard inner clenching or contraction around an imaginary center that is a subjective symptom of egoity strongly felt (ie., St. John: "The living flame of love makes the soul feel its hardness and aridity."). This “doubt” may also be considered as a thought or feeling-sense of the struggle with self as it begins to become clear that you yourself, as you are, are part of the the problem, but the problem itself (the activity of contraction or false identification, which is egoity and a split-mind) is not entirely obvious as yet.

   Hakuin, an 18th century Zen master, extolled this form of doubt:

   “If you keep on doubting continuously, with a bold spirit and a feeling of shame urging you on, your effort will naturally become unified and solid, turning into a single mass of doubt throughout heaven and earth. The spirit will feel suffocated, the mind distressed, like a bird in a cage, like a rat that has gone into a bamboo tube and cannot escape.” (reference misplaced)

   The ordinary man in general has no such existential "doubt". He is comfortable with a self which he unconsciously identifies with the body. He has not yet studied and applied mentalism (a term of Paul Brunton’s), and thus does not see that the world and all his perceptions are mental, i.e., that there is no independently existing physical world “out there” -or certainly no proof of such - outside of the perceived. As practise increases, however, his natural conceit becomes undermined. Certainty and knowledge turn into doubt. His confrontation of Self with the Not-Self causes humiliation after humiliation. His internal reactivity to these defeats thins down and becomes more non-manifested. His pretensions to exist as a distinct being and triumph over the world he experiences decrease. If he has studied mentalism, he may have begun to see the world as mental but has not yet seen his ego-self as an idea also, nor further that all ultimately arises in and as Consciousness, his true eternal identity. The seeker basically no longer knows who he is, who or what the "I" or the "world" are, while reality itself has yet to dawn upon him. The man at this stage has been described as "an idiot", knowing nothing - and often in deep despair, of an extreme existential nature, or, alternatively, in a state of simultaneously increasing clarity as well as extreme doubt or confusion. The energy of the Great Doubt (doubt of himself, his knowledge, his practise, and his relationship with Reality) gradually is built up within his being to a critical degree. His inner being is approaching a unification or singularity, albeit subconscious, so that when fundamental insight finally arises to consciousness, as satori, it is often catalyzed by the perception of an external sight or sound - representing in itself the whole of the Not-Self - and collapsing the sense of even an external witness - as the inherent distress is released and the “doubt” vanishes. Therefore it has been said:

   “The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening; the smaller the doubt, the smaller the awakening; no doubt, no awakening.” (35)

   The following describes an awakening experience in the life of the great Zen Master Bankei:

     “The master, frustrated in his attempts to resolve the feeling of doubt which weighed so heavily on his mind, became deeply disheartened. Signs of serious illness appeared. He began to cough up bloody bits of sputem. He grew steadily worse, until death seemed imminent. He said to himself, “Everyone has to die. I’m not concerned about that. My regret is dying with the great matter I’ve been struggling with all these years, since I was a small boy, still unresolved.” His eyes flushed with hot tears. His breast heaved violently. It seemed his ribs would burst. Then, just at that moment, enlightenment came to him - like a bottom falling out of a bucket. Immediately, his health began to return, but still he was unable to express what he had realized. Then, one day, in the early hours of the morning, the scent of plum blossoms carried to him in the morning air reached his nostrils. At that instant, all attachments and obstacles were swept from his mind once and for all. The doubts that had been plaguing him ceased to exist.” (36)

   Interestingly, Bankei, who became somewhat of a Zen radical, after thirty more years of practise in which he deepened his awakening and had several more ‘enlightenments’, went on to admonish his students that “nowadays there were those who went about trying to rouse a great doubt”, thus confusing their pupils unnecessarily. All that was required, said Bankei, was for one to realize for oneself the one, unborn Buddha Mind, perfectly manifesting in every moment, and to discard any form of doubt about the matter. He said:

   “Generally speaking, Zen teachers nowadays instruct people by setting up rules or using devices. Believing that without devices they can’t manage, behaving as if without them it’s impossible to instruct anyone, they’re unable to teach by simply pointing things out directly. To teach people [this way], unable to manage without devices, is ‘devices Zen.’
   Others tell students pursuing this teaching that it’s no good unless they rouse a great ball of doubt and succeed in breaking through it. ‘No matter what,’ they tell them, ‘you’ve got to rouse a ball of doubt!’ They don’t teach, ‘Abide in the Unborn Buddha Mind!’
[but instead] cause people without any ball of doubt to saddle themselves with one, making them exchange the Buddha Mind for a ball of doubt. A mistaken business, isn’t it!” (37)

   The ball of doubt is “an old Zen expression describing the state in which a student’s mind is totally obsessed with a particular problem, so that his whole being becomes the problem itself. The ‘ball of doubt’ is often considered the prelude to the experience of satori, or [non-dual] enlightenment.” (38)

   One can easily see how as a technique or expectation by the student, without direct and skillfull guidance from a crafty and accomplished master, this could easily turn into just another egoic activity of the mind. Bankei never tired of telling his students that they need not go through the strenuous ordeals he endured, that faith in the one, Unborn Buddha Mind was enough. But does this mean that Bankei didn't believe in the Great Doubt teaching or process? Not exactly, rather, he was likely being critical of students and teachers artificially trying to create what they thought was great doubt based on what they had read or heard about it! The process can't be avoided as it is central to awakening. This is elucidated in the recent translation of Zen master Boshan's short book on the Great Doubt by teacher Jeff Shore (Great Doubt: Practicing Zen in the World, trans. by Jeff Shore, Wisdom Publications, 2016).


   In contrast to Bankei, zen master Hakuin (known as “the patriarch who revived Zen,” and “the greatest sage in 500 years,” who perhaps surpassed even current teachers by speaking of "the straight path of non-duality and non-trinity"!), used the koan, a kind of artificial technique earlier Zen masters had developed, to help his pupils go beyond the dualistic mind. He is known for introducing the particular koan, “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” Thus, the use of the koan - another such as “give me a word on your self before you were born” - were adopted to create a “Great Doubt,” or form of liberating despair in the pupil, in order to produce the breaking up of the dualistic intellect and usher in satori which could be considered a non-dual awakening. The koan was not a joke or form of parlor trick or gimmick; it was recognized that it represented the core dilemma of the student. In fact, it was usually given only to advanced practitioners. And a full range of disciplines and sitting practise generally accompanied contemplation of the koan.

   In some form even today a variety of the 'Great Doubt' is something the student will usually confront. It may be viewed not as an ordinary form of doubt, but perhaps more like an impasse or conundrum. Richard Rose in fact said that , in this day and age, life gives you all the koans you need, in the form of perplexing and seemingly impossible obstacles and problems to be solved. The answer to the master’s question, or the form of the unique path to the Absolute that each of us is on, will have to become and be owned as ones own. The doubt of ones fundamental urge to be, in the form of a desire to exist as a distinct, separate self, is provoked by the master's (or life's) relentless silent Presence, skillful words and actions, confrontation of the student and lack of support for his illusions, all which will have to be humbly accepted, with gratitude. In the case of Kyogen, after realization he thanked his master Isan by saying,

   “The compassion of my teacher is greater that that even of my parents. Had he explained to me and showed me the answer, I should never have been able to have this great joy!”) (39)

   As pointed out by Abbot Zenkei Shibayama, in A Flower Does Not Talk, a true Zen Master can see the difference between a form of samadhi (considered in Zen to be an undesirable or at least incomplete mystical state) or satori in a pupil’s experience:

   “ [The] state of samadhi, however, often tends to be just a “psychological state of being one with something,” and lacks the basic prajna (true wisdom) to develop. Hogen saw that the monk’s satori still remained in just such a psychological state of samadhi, and failed to work out into prajna, true wisdom. He therefore stated that his satori was not yet a true satori. Then the monk, being rebuked, hesitated in his mind, and began to ask “Why?” [i.e., he began to inquire] This doubt engrossed his whole being. His Zen consciousness was intensified by doubt though he was not aware of it. Doubt is related to wisdom. He put the same question again to Hogen, but his inner spiritual condition was totally different on the second occasion. Hogen gave exactly the same reply, and this had the effect of breaking through the Great Doubt, and enabled him to open a new eye of wisdom.” (40)

   "The aim of Zen training is to die while alive, that is, to actually become the self of no-mind, and no-form, and then to revive as the True Self of no-mind and no-form. In Zen training, therefore, what is most important is for one to revive from the abyss of unconsciousness. Zen training is not the emotional process of just being in the state of oneness, nor is it just to have the "feeling" of no-mind. Prajna wisdom (true wisdom) has to shine out after breaking through the extremity of the Great Doubt, and then still further training is needed so that one can freely live the Zen life and work in the world as a new man." (41)

   Thus, doubt of the right kind can lead to a fundamental awakening. It should be pointed out that in general this particular form of “Great Doubt” is non-objective in nature.

   Hubert Benoit gives us such a description, in which he proposes that, while ‘hitting bottom’ is often a necessity, in the moments actually preceding satori one is not necessarily in deep despair:

   “The Western mind often has difficulty in understanding the term “Great Doubt” which Zen uses to indicate the inner state which immediately precedes satori. It thinks that this Great Doubt should be the acme of uncertainty, of uneasiness, therefore of distress. It is exactly the opposite. Let us try to see this point clearly. Man comes into the world with a doubt concerning his ‘being’ [This may not be true, but it is certainly true after a few years], and this doubt dictates all his reactions to the outer world. Although I do not often realise it, the question ‘Am I?’ is behind all my endeavors; I seek a definite confirmation of my ‘being’ in everything that I aspire to. As long as this metaphysical question is identified in me with the problem of my temporal success, as long as I debate this question within Manifestation, distress dwells in me on account of my temporal limitation; for the question so posed is always menaced with a negative reply. But, in the measure in which my understanding deepens and in which my imaginative representation of the universe is subtilised, the identification of my metaphysical doubt with the eventuality of my temporal defeat falls asunder; my distress decreases. My question concerning my ‘being’ is purified; its manifested aspect wears thin; in reality it is not reduced but becomes more and more non-manifested. At the end of this process of distillation the doubt has become almost perfectly pure, it is ‘Great Doubt’, and at the same time it has lost all its distressing character; it is at once the acme of confusion and the height of obviousness, obviousness without formal object, having tranquility and peace. ‘Then the subject has the impression that he is living in a palace of crystal, transparent, vivifying, exalting and royal’; and at the same time he is ‘like an idiot, like an imbecile’. The famous and illusory question ‘Am I?’, in purifying itself abolishes itself, and I shall at last escape from its fascination not in a satisfying solution of the problem, but in the ability to see that no problem ever existed.” (42)

   And further:

   “The further a man is, in his emotive states, from satori...the more intensely will he experience the nostalgia of its attainment in whatever way he may envisage it; the nearer a man approaches satori...the less strongly does he feel his nostalgia for its attainment. On the verge of satori, in the moments which preceed it, all nostalgia of its attainment disappears; then, for lack of any nostalgia, he who attains to satori does not feel it at all as an attainment; he can say, with Hui-neng, ‘There is no attainment, there is no liberation’, liberation only existing in the eyes of him who is not liberated.” (43)

   Sri Nisargadatta concurs:

   "The desire for freedom, which arises in the heart of the seeker in the initial stages, gradually disappears when he realizes that he himself is what he has been seeking." (44)

   On the nature of the process leading to satori Benoit adds:

   "Zen tells us not to lay a finger on life: 'Leave things as they may be.' It is not for me to modify directly my habits of training myself. It is only indirectly that I can obtain the disappearance of these habits, by means of my understanding, ever more profound, that these attempts at training, which I continue to make, have in themselves no efficacy for realisation. It is a question, in short, of obtaining the devalorisation of these compensations which are my attempts at training; and this implies the defeat of the attempts and the correct interpretation of this defeat."

   "Satori, as we know, is not the crowning of an ultimate success but of an ultimate defeat. The consciousness of always having been free appears in us when we have exhausted all the attempts, all the training, that we believe may be capable of liberating us. If the disciplines could not be 'paths' resulting in satori, that does not mean that they may not be paths to be followed; they are paths leading to blind-alleys, all leading to a unique and ultimate blind-alley; but they are to be followed just because satori cannot be obtained unless we have come up against the end of this last blind-alley. They are to be followed with the theoretical understanding that they lead nowhere, so that experience may transform this theoretical understanding into total understanding, into this clear vision which is the arrival in the blind-alley and which lays us open to satori."

   Ramesh Balsekar similarly writes:

   "How is one to know if one is making 'progress' spiritually? Could it be that the surest sign of 'progress' is a lack of concern about progress and an absence of anxiety about liberation in the wake of clear apprehension?" (46)

   This is one possibility.

   For an interesting discussion on the subject of Great Doubt, see this issue of the online Zen Journal.

   Adyashanti takes more of the view of Bankei regarding the question of doubt. Rather than asking for an answer to the question of "what are you before you were born?," and suggesting that it is an ordeal, he de-stresses the process by recommending a straightforward process of inquiry in order to see or feel the presence or "unborn" nature that has always been ones true identity:

   "Before you took shape, before you were an infant in your mother's womb, before your parents came together, what were you?"

   "Generally, our minds are so cluttered with ideas about who and what we are that we are unable to touch in on this truth of being, although most of us do have a feeling about this part of ourselves. We have some vague sense that we're something other than what we're pretending to be..."

   "[But] what would happen if for a moment we stopped and didn't play any part, if we allowed ourselves to be un-born and to touch upon who and what we were before we took form, before we appeared to be someone distinct and different?"

   "If you stop in this place of not-knowing who you are, if you resist the temptation to conceptualize an identity, you'll begin to touch a lived sense of the inner presence. You'll awaken to what I call an "alive, pregnant nothingness." This is not a "nothingness" that is blank or absent of any qualities, but rather one that is extraordinarily vital and rich with potential. Here we can enter a mysterious dimension that is not accessible through our normal routes of thinking and understanding; we can see clearly that what we are isn't something we can think about. We can only think about what we are not. What we are in reality is alive, awake, and conscious, existing as pure potential."

   "From this place of pure potential and alive presence, we come into the world of form..This form with which we begin to identify, a merely physical form, is actually something immense that develops out of this pure potential.
[For students of PB and Plotinus, the body is a product of the World-Idea (the expression of the World-Mind or Nous) operating through the Soul, which provides a vehicle for the projecting aspect of the Soul to operate within] The suddenness of being birthed into this life is quite a shock. It's such a shock that the spirit, which is open and free, immediately contracts and grasps onto this body..and at that moment identification begins." [some say that this identification does not truly consciously begin until about the age of two, but there is likely a recoil of the organism at birth. The words "consciousness latches onto the body because of the shock" are confusing: how can consciousness latch onto its own manifestation? But it does appear to do so. [Some, such as James Swartz, have said, however, that it is actually the subtle body, not the Soul, that latches on to it].

   "But as we look very closely, we perceive that there is nothing about this form, this body, that is in any way separate from where it came, the source in spirit."

   "Even through this process of birth into form and our maturation as a human being, most of what we really are remains "unborn." This unborn quality is not something you lose as you age. It's easy to go into a trance of the mind and believe that you've lost your original state, your true oneness with spirit. But this is just thought. It is just a trick of the mind."

   "What's unseen presents itself in the form of a body, a mind, and a very unique personality structure. Every birth into this world of physical form is given a sense of self, so that spirit can then operate through it."

   [In PB's terms, the sense or feeling of self or 'I' actually comes from the spirit, Soul, or Overself, while the body, personality and world of the senses comes from the World-Idea manifesting through the Soul].


   Peter Dziuban, also a bit like Bankei, tells us to again and again to simply be reminded of the true nature of Reality:

   “Consciousness, Being, never doubts or has questions about itself. Notice how any doubts or questions seem to originate from the constantly shifting, unstable thinking of the intellect or so-called sensing mind...If you are aware enough to simply know you are, you’ve got all it takes....Notice how, regardless of one’s religious beliefs, Consciousness is conscious. Regardless of how much faith one has - whether a lot or none at all - Consciousness is conscious. Faith can be in a god, or in cold, hard scientific fact - it doesn’t matter - Consciousness goes right on being, in spite of either. As said before, the beauty and power of Consciousness is that it is not a matter of human faith, which is fallible and can waiver, or be misdirected towards evil. The Ever-Presence of Consciousness is infallible, a changeless absolute certainty.” (48)

   "Do you feel any hesitation about the unconfinable magnificance of Consciousness? Do you feel a sense of too much responsibility, or doubt whether "you" deserve to be All, the entirety of Endless Existence, and fear you can't handle It? That would be only a personal reaction, from a finite body's point of view. Of course it couldn't deserve or accept this."

   "Consciousness Itself can't even accept it. Consciousness is being It! There is no choice! Consciousness never hesitates to be the Magnificance It is, and there is no other."

   "To Your Self this is completely normal. Isn't Consciousness right now just as effortlessly present and boundlessly conscious as It was before you began reading these pages? The Boundlessness of Consciousness has nothing to do with personal capacity, personal ability or deservedness whatsoever, because It never is a person being It...It would be due only to a prior false belief that Consciousness should be located in the body, that any of this may seem difficult to accept. Is it difficult for Consciousness Itself?"

   I would only add here that, in my understanding, Consciousness definitely is in the body, and the body is also in Consciousness. That, in fact, is its paradoxical nature. An emanant of Consciousness (more precisely, the Soul) resides in the body, and gives life to the body, and when that emanant withdraws, the body dies.

   Dziuban advises students to repeatedly, persistently, make a statement about Reality, such as “Consciousness Is All,” or “I AM Consciousness,” knowing that it is Conscious or Infinite Mind or Intelligence that is, in fact, making the statement. He says that it will eventually, little by little, seed ones understanding until Consciousness is the obvious, beyond a shadow of a doubt. One should realize doubt as merely an activity of the dream-like, illusory, finite thinking mind, and not an attribute of Reality, which has no doubt and in fact is what one Is. While this process of affirmation sounds too easy, akin to certain of the Short Path exercises of PB, he says it is nothing less than the Truth speaking to Itself. He affirms it is not merely an intellectual exercise, but a simple, straightforward, and powerful assertion of Reality by Reality.

   Of course, there are those who argue that this is exactly what it is, an intellectual exercise and subtle form of self-hypnosis that leads to the bypassing of a deeper inquiry. While it is beyond the scope of this article to pursue, the issue of whether or not "consciousness" is truly all there is and is, in fact, ultimate reality itself, is disputed in a four-part series of articles beginning with
Dual Non-Dualism: Part One on this website

   Doubt of ones views is an excellent start towards the fundamental humility required to make any advance in true understanding. Reason (or buddhi, also known as the higher reason) is higher than belief. V.S. Iyer wrote:

   "Those who lack the capacity to doubt are not fit for Vedanta. The religious way says: Believe! and you will be saved. The Vedantic way says: Doubt! and you will be saved." (50)

   Sri Nisargadatta said:

   "Remember, there can be no proof of Reality other than being it. Indeed you are it, and have always been...You must find your own way. Unless you find it yourself it will not be your own way and will take you nowhere. Earnestly live your truth as you have found it - act on the little you have understood. It is earnestness that will take you through." (51)

   He also warns the 'doubter', as a 'entity' or phenomenal appearance in consciousness, about expecting to gain knowledge of any familiar kind:

   "The inter-related opposites, both knowledge and ignorance, are in the area of the known and, therefore, not the truth - and truth is only in the unknown. Once this is clearly understood, nothing remains to be done. Indeed, there is really no 'entity' to do anything...The seeker, the disciple, as an entity, expects to learn and understand 'something'. But how can a mere conceptual object understand anything? What actually happens is that the understanding, as such, makes the seeker (the Sadhaka) disappear. The individuality of the seeker gradually disappears, but, in the process, the Guru's grace, which is always present like the shining sun, becomes one with consciousness. The sooner the identification with the body as a separate entity is lost the sooner will the Guru's grace bloom in the consciousness of the disciple. And then he will realize that the Guru is none other than the consciousness within, and it is the consciousness which, pleased with the faith and love of the disciple, will act as the Sadguru and unfold all the knowledge that is necessary." (52)

   "That, which you do not know and cannot know is your true state. This, which you think is real because it can be objectified, is what you appear to be. Whatever knowledge you are now seeking about your true state is unknowable, because you are what you are seeking." (53)

   Jeff Foster states:

   "The authority is there when you know nothing, because nothing cannot be doubted. It is beyond certainty and beyond doubt. Then, what need is there for any external authority?" (54)

   [This type of statement is also unclear. If "nothing" is beyond certainty and doubt, how does one know he knows "nothing?" Hence the need for external verification is implicit in the very statement. The view that spiritual realisation is "self-verifying" has not been universally held, particularly in the Sufi and Zen traditions, where verification or confirmation of ones state was always advised by the greatest of masters].

   James Swartz advises a practice similar to that of Dziuban of assertion to remove existential doubt, saying “try it and see”. Repeat to oneself, “I am awareness,” and the mind will go towards the object of the thought, thus undermining ones finite limited views of the self:

   “Thought is not the devil; it can reveal the truth. Self-inquiry does not ask you to kill the mind and destroy your thoughts. It gives you the right self thought, and shows you how to use it, assuming you are seeking freedom. The right thought is “I am awareness.” The “I am awareness” thought is as good as awareness because when you think a thought, the mind goes to the object of the thought. The object of the “I am awareness” thought, the “I,” is awareness and it has to be present or thought cannot happen. So when you think “I am awareness” it turns the mind away from other thoughts, the mind goes to awareness and awareness is revealed. Try it.” (55)

   [One can see doubt as a self-created barrier to realization, a form of protecting the ego-structure to keep one in a hypnotic state. It is a tamasic quality of the mind. In addition, it is a learned activity. We were not born in doubt - although, certainly, we are not born realized either. Developing the ego - the body-mind complex felt as a distinct entity, and creating a self-referral in the mind, lifting man above subconscious animal life - is a necessary and normal process, and so, at the appropriate time, is the subsequent existential doubt of the inherent reality of that entity which eventually leads one to question and seek to know ones true Self. However, on the other hand, one could repeat the assertion, "I am awareness" for a hundred years and never realize what it refers to! In fact, this recommendation seems kind of crazy to me. For one thing, grammatically speaking, "I" is not the object of the statement "I am awareness." "Awareness" is the object; "I" is the subject. The only useful goal of this assertion is to point towards the subject, which, if one is lucky, will help him in self-remembering and lead to the creation of a center of awareness in the mind, and, if he is really lucky, with further guidance, eventually to the state of Presence. Yet even this is not Ultimate Reality, as the reader will discover by referring to the aforementioned link, "Dual Non-Dualism"].

   Sri Sadhu Om, disciple of Ramana Maharshi, said:

   "Whatever doubt may arise, it cannot rise without the rising of you - the first to have risen - who raised it. Therefore, the primal doubt, namely that of not knowing who you are, is the root of all doubts! Until this primal doubt is cleared, replying to your other doubts will be just like cutting the leaves off the branches of a tree, because they will sprout again and again! But if the root is cut, they will not sprout again!" (56)

   Sri Nisargadatta says:

   "Liberation is not an acquisition but a matter of courage, the courage to believe that you are free already and to act on it." (57)

   The Yoga Vasistha similarly tells us what to do with doubt. This is a repetition:

   "Give up all your doubts. Resort to moral courage." (58)

   And also explains the means to eradicate such doubt:

   "The truth does not become clear in you until it has been heard again and again and meditated upon again and again." (59)

   It is a fair point to say that the mind is rooted in doubt. To be more precise, the mind is rooted in separation. This is the “I”-thought, the ego, the sense of being separate from reality and our trying to figure it all out rather than simply being what we truly are. The mind thus includes the whole interrelationship of the ego and its world, not just the verbal mind or brain. And true enough, the mind cannot know or see reality, because the mind is the result of separation. But this is also a narrow understanding of mind that does not account for the genuine basis for an awareness of mind, which is the consciousness that underlies it.

   If we think of “doubt” as the fundamental illusion of separateness, then yes, the ego-mind is rooted in doubt, which is all the “I”-thought amounts to. (We say ‘’rooted in doubt’ because upon inquiry the “I”-thought is actually never found). But what we call “mind” is not really what we think it to be at all. It is not, in reality, the mechanism of doubt and separation. It is free, open and continuous with all existence. It is not defined by doubt, and it does not disappear when the illusion of separation and doubt are seen through. It is only the ego-mind, or doubt-mind, that vanishes in realization, and our true mind is seen to have never been qualified by the ego’s illusion of doubt.


   Religious faith, while a wonderful thing when genuine, is, more often than not - along with beliefs - a projection of the doubt-mind; that is, a way of escaping insecurity and concern for our continued personal survival. Yet the paradox is that there is no inherent reason to doubt or worry for the continued survival of our personality after death because of the reason that there is no continued survival for it right now. It is a continually changing, ever-dying and being-reborn empirical construct. It gets its feeling of enduring being from the which lights it up, that gives it life, but it gets its sense of having inherent reality as a distinct entity from our continued thinking about it.

   We can stand beyond the doubt-mind, even as we critique it and let it voice its many doubts and questions, because in reality we are already beyond doubt-mind. Thus, we can accept the conditioned mind as it is, and not react to it or expect it to be satisfied. We even have to respect its need to understand itself, and to ask questions and seek answers in the process. That is why spiritual teachings exist in the first place, to help those who are yet identified in one way or another with the conditioned mind and to find their way beyond it, and to know its true nature, free of dukkha or suffering.

   In Beyond the Separate Self, Colin Drake argues that every perception is a pointer to consciousness, since everything perceived actually arises in and as consciousness. Sri Aurobindo likewise wrote:

   "...to the seeing eye each finite carries in it its own revelation of the infinite." (60)

   Ninth-century Ch'an master Huang Po said:

   "They [sentient beings] do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifested in the Buddhas." (61)

   Even after realization, until its stabilization, at whatever stage, a form of doubt may linger. Sri Nisargadatta said that even a realized soul could doubt his realization, and that it may have to be pointed out:

   "With some, realization comes imperceptibly, but somehow they need convincing. They have changed, but they do not notice it. Such non-spectacular cases are often the most reliable." (62)

   PB similarly wrote:

   "The authentic thing does not enter consciousness. You do not know that it has transpired. You discover it is already here only by looking back at what you were and contrasting it with what you now are; or when others recognize it in you and draw attention to it; or when a situation arises which throws up your real status." (63)

   [This is an interesting statement. If the authentic thing does not enter consciousness," and one doesn't know it "has transpired," then how does one know he has realised it? The Absolute State referred to by Nisargadatta, it appears, may be what PB referred to by "pure awareness." According to Nisargadatta, this state is kwnowable, but only by being it. By saying that it "does not enter consciousness," PB must have meant here that it does not enter empirical or dualistic consciousness, as an 'object'. He does say that it is 'discoverable', however, therefore it is known, but not by the usual faculty of knowledge, rather by direct insight or apperception, which is not other than Being it. Anadi actually describes how, in the Absolute State "beyond consciousness", consciousness, after becoming stabilised in the state of Presence, can relax and sink into Being and meets its Absence, while staying self-aware. It is a paradoxical condition. And beyond even this, there is more! Once again, the reader is directed to "Dual Non-Dualism"].

   Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253) said:

   "Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment."

   So this thing called doubt is beginning to appear as something rather mysterious, that is, as a part of the divine mystery Itself.

   Sri Nisargadatta suggests that we 'test' ourselves to overcome this kind of doubt:

   "If you do not test yourself all the time, you will not be able to distinguish between reality and fancy. Observation and close reasoning help to some extent, but reality is paradoxical. How do you know that you have realized unless you watch your thoughts and feelings, words and actions and wonder at the changes occurring in you without your knowing why and how? It is exactly because they are so surprising that you know that they are real. The foreseen and expected is rarely true...You can know reality only when you are astonished." (64)

   From another angle, in the words of Vedantist V.S. Iyer, we see one of the techniques employed by the sages:

   "The Guru begins his work by asking the candidate what knowledge he already has. Then the sage may sometimes indirectly create a doubt in order to ascertain if a candidate is fit for higher knowledge." (65)

   The sage tries to see how sincere the aspirant is and how attached he is to his own knowledge. In this instance doubt, in the form of humility, is a positive quality to have. There is also ascertained the quality of discrimination in the student, i.e., the ability to discriminate the real from the unreal, and his aspiration to higher values. This leads to the teacher either rejecting the candidate for discipleship, or giving instruction in accord with the capacity of the student, to increase his faith and allay his doubts:

   "If you say there are two dharmas, you slander the Tathagata. But even though according to this there aren't two Dharmas, there are, depending on the karma of ordinary people, the sharp and the dull, and thus sudden and gradual realizations of the Way, and shallow and deep journeys from delusion to enlightenment. And depending on the depth of the journey, there are lofty and feeble degrees of attainment." - Bassui Tokusho (1327-1387) (66)

   Traditionally highly recommended is the finding of and tutelage under a true teacher - your teacher. Such a one may be difficult to find. Yet we also have the testimony of scripture that such a one is always on the lookout for 'his own'. His qualities must be such as to instill perfect confidence. Only then will you be able to generate faith in him and his teaching, which will make you prone to glimpses of your true nature, which in due course will do away with all doubts and set you firmly on the path as a 'stream-enterer'. We say this because in Buddhism it is recognized that there are many potential stages after initial awakening that lead to full Buddhahood. Speaking of this, eighth-century writer Anangavajra advises us:

   "So a wise man must resort to a good master, for without him the Truth cannot be found in millions of ages. And if Truth is not found, the final goal can never be reached." (67)

   This is as true in Zen as it is in a mystical emanationist path such as Sant Mat and certain schools of Buddhism, perhaps even more so in the latter, where passage through the realms of form and formlessness to final Nirvana is bewildering and difficult without an unerring guide.

   Master Po Shan, from a different but related perspective, discoursed:

   “Therefore the proverb says, after enlightenment one should visit the Zen Masters.” The sages of the past demonstrated the wisdom of this when, after their enlightenment, they visited the Zen Masters and improved themselves greatly. One who clings to his realization and is unwilling to visit the Masters, who can pull out his nails and spikes, is a man who cheats himself.” (68)

   Patrul Rinpoche says:

   "To follow a teacher, you should have so much confidence in him that you perceive him as a real Buddha." (69)

   Bodhidharma (CE 440-528) said:

   "To find a buddha all you have to do is see your nature. Your nature is the buddha. And the buddha is the person who's free: free of plans, free of cares. If you don't see your nature and run all day around looking somewhere else, you'll never find a buddha. The truth is, there's nothing to find. But to reach such understanding you need a teacher and you need to struggle to make yourself understand. Life and death are important. Don't suffer in vain. There's no advantage in deceiving yourself....If you don't find a teacher soon, you'll live this life in vain. It's true you have buddha-nature. But without the help of a teacher you'll never know it." (70)

   PB's middle ground view was as follows:

   "First at the beginning of the Long [traditional] Path, and again at the beginning of the Short ['direct'] Path a master, a spiritual guide, is really required. But outside these two occasions an aspirant had better walk alone ." (71)

   Having said all that, we grant that in this present day there may be exceptions to this requirement. Humanity is evolving and many are awakening without such a traditional relationship. Whether such awakenings will need the help of a teacher for further development and deepening, however, is another matter. Even the greatest masters have needed gurus. Buddha included, who acknowledged that in lives past and present he had the help of great teachers. His admonishment to his followers near the end of his life, "be ye lamps unto thyselves," can be seen as saying that they had no need to search for another teacher, as they had established a permanent bond with him, and not that a teacher or guru wasn't needed at all. Even so, if one cannot - and even if one does - find a true Sat-guru, and be established in a mature relationship with him, to ones great good fortune, one may readily find Upa-gurus just about everywhere one looks; that is, persons who can cause a shift in ones consciousness, for the true Buddha-nature is everywhere, often in the least likely places.

   Moreover, PB states:

   "It is the mystic's ego which constructs the image of his teacher or saviour, and his Overself [Soul] which animates that image with divine power. This explains why earnest pupils of false teachers have made good progress and why saviours dead for thousands of years still seem to help their followers." (72)

   Back to the subject of doubt. Iyer firmly states:

   “When there is a desire for final truth, when doubts come to a man, it indicates that he has begun to think.” (73)

   Sri Nisargadatta similarly said:

   "When you shall begin to question your dream, awakening will be not far away...Be alert. Question, observe, investigate, learn all you can about confusion, how it operates, what it does to you and others. By being clear about confusion you will become clear of confusion....The idea that you know what is true is dangerous, for it keeps you imprisoned in the mind. it is when you do not know, that you are free to investigate,. And there can be no salvation without investigation, because non-investigation is the main cause of bondage." (74)


   "You are taking so many things for granted. Begin to question. The most obvious things are the most doubtful. Ask yourself such questions as: 'Was I really born?' 'Am I really so-and-so?' 'How do I know I exist?' 'Who are my parents?' 'Have they created me, or have I created them?' 'Must I believe all I am told about myself?' 'Who am I, anyhow?' You have spent so much energy into building a prison for yourself. Now spend as much on demolishing it. In fact, demolition is easy, for the false dissolves when it is discovered." (75)

   Richard Rose advised his students to doubt everything, to question all of their beliefs. Anthony Damiani said much the same thing: "give up your claim to ownership of knowledge and you move very quickly." What they are saying, of course, is that such a claim is a chief obstacle to realization. Meister Eckhart preached one should "go by a way in which you know not."

   Or as they say in Zen, "cease having views."

   Pema Chodron gives similar advise for when one hits a blank wall:

   "In Tibetan there's an interesting word, ye tang che. The ye part means "totally, completely," and the rest of it means "exhausted." Altogether, ye tang che means entirely tired out. We might say, "totally fed up." It describes an experience of complete hopelessness, of completely giving up hope. This is an important point, the beginning of the beginning. Without giving up hope - that there's somewhere better to be, that there's someone better to be - we will never relax with where we are or who we are...Suffering begins to dissolve when we can question the belief or hope that there's anywhere to hide." (76)


   At the risk of sounding too negative, one must not fail to point out a similar form of doubt that is a useful asset for beginner and proficient alike, and that is a healthy scepticism or doubt of the honesty and sincerity of the ego and its crafty ways. While it is true, as PB has pointed out, that the mental and moral development of the ego must proceed in parallel with the spiritual development that will eventually enslave, overshadow, and unite with it, one must be on guard of any inflation of one's self-importance (and also its opposite, inferiority). The ego, when not understood rightly, will easily insert and disguise itself within one's loftiest spiritual experiences and aims. Cultivation of intuition, humility, and confirmation of ones intentions by reason are a shield and buckler against this form of danger.

   There is also a more or less healthy form of 'doubt' concerning ones continuing survival as a separate entity. The traditional method of dealing with this has been to dive into this doubt by prescribing contemplation on the inevitability of death. Pabongka Rinpoche states:

   "At no time, once we are born, do we deviate from the direction of our death. We have already used up so much of our life span, there is not much of it left...When we sleep, we may be relaxed and happy, yet we are still rushing directly towards the lord of death." (77)


   "In the beginning when you were born from your mother's womb, you were born alone. In mid-life, when you get sick, for example, only you can experience it. In the end, when you die, you go through death (utterly) alone." (78)

   And further:

   "If you do not recollect death, you will not practise Dharma seriously, nor will you be able to practise continually...Our not recollecting death and impermanence is to blame." (79)

   Though this is a rather dreary form of contemplation, the preciousness of human life is useful to remember. Fortunately, upon serious self-inquiry or advanced mysticism all doubts and fears of death can be removed.

   Kabir states, somewhat more positively:

   "While the people of the world are mortally afraid of death,
   I welcome death as a harbinger of bliss.
   Die and be thou dead to the world,
   Such a death I experience many times a day."

   "Remember the day you came weeping into the world to the jubilation of those around thee; Live thou a life that you may depart laughing amidst the weeping and wailing of all." - anonymous (81)

   Meditation on death can go deeper, however, than just contemplating dread. One can understand that life and death are not radically different. Impermanence is a quality of both. As Deepak Chopra says:

   "When people wonder if the personality survives death, the answer is that the personality doesn't even survive while we are alive. We are not the same person we were five, ten, or fifteen years ago and it would be a sorry state if we were. Our personalities are constantly evolving, transforming, growing...Everyone is living in the afterlife right now. What is there to fear or doubt?...You accept death because you accept birth. The two must go together. Forget these rumors that you were ever born. That is the only cure for dying." (82)

   Or, as Tantra maintains, "everything has already died; this is the other world."

   The great Tibetan master Marpa said:

   "I might die an ordinary death, but I need not worry;
   Familiarity has given me perfect confidence."

   Another form of doubt that will inevitably (and hopefully) arise on ones journey is doubt of ones seeking itself, which is different from a ‘doubt of ones path’, for in the latter one might only begin a search for a new ‘path’, but in the former one doubts the concept of a 'path' itself; this can actually be a step in the right direction. Buddhist teacher Rodney Smith writes, in Stepping Out of Self-Deception:

   “The fundamental principle we must remember when traversing a spiritual path is that "we" do not "have" a mind. The mind has created the sense of you and me from the way it perceives reality. The truth is the mind holds "us" within it. "We" are not the possessor of a mind, and the mind is not something happening to us as if we were outside looking in. "We" are a part of the mental processing of the mind.The thoughts of the mind and the sense-of-I are not two separate events. "We" exist only because the mind thinks us into creation."

   "It is helpful if we consciously verbalize our spiritual intention: is our intention to be a person waking up, or to awaken out of being a person?...Unwise view seizes the opportunity by following the desire
[to be a person waking up] and looking outside itself for completion. We go searching for teachers, retreats, pilgrimages, we engage in ceremonies, do austerities, chant, meditate, bend our body into yoga postures, all in the name of satisfying a longing that only needs our attention."

   "The longing, if read correctly, does not need to take us outside to search for an answer. It is a longing to connect more deeply with what is already here, not to try and find something missing.Our primary intention is to completely resolve all outside searching and to know our intrinsic wholeness of being. To meet this primary purpose, simply allow your attention to rest with the longing rather than with what the longing seems to indicate is missing."

   "...The space between fixed notions of reality holds the  Dharma. The confusion
[doubt] we feel is the wonderment of the Dharma trying to get through our cognitive maps and indicates the sense-of-self is on shaky ground....The momentary confusion keeps us from becoming mechanical or complacent within our ideas of the truth, because the truth cannot be located or mapped. In fact, a quality of truth is that it is not definable...I have seen many practitioners overstay their efforts and arrest their understanding. They practice a certain method based upon a logical formula for awakening, and then stay there despite internal cues to the contrary. The practitioners feel safe and unassailable, expertly following their breath for hours according to the Buddha's instruction, or sweeping their attention from head to toe over and over, knowing they are practicing in accordance with long-established traditions or progressions of insight."

   "But scratch beneath the surface and their hearts are dry. The mechanics of the approach eventually dulls their aliveness. They are often waiting for the results more than seeing into the mystery, and have opted out of the wonder for the mental fulfillment of precision.This impediment is often accompanied by firm views and opinions about their methodology, and an equally firm resistance to hearing feedback, making the journey through the maze much longer...The effort involved in seeking the truth is paradoxically long and arduous because the truth is what we intrinsically are, and therefore cannot be sought.”

   Sri Nisargadatta said:

   "The man who claims to be God and the man who doubts it - both are deluded. They talk in their dream." (85)

   Similarly, Ramesh Balsekar writes:

   "The real crux of the problem (Nisargadatta Maharaj used to call it a big joke or hoax) is the fact that the individual who thinks he is enlightened is in as much bondage as another who thinks he is ignorant...This is because "that" which thinks it is in bondage, and "that" which thinks it is enlightened are both identified with a phenomenal object. The supposed problem, therefore, relates not to any condition of bondage or freedom, but to the identification with a supposed separate entity with supposed autonomy." (86)

   Next, Swartz writes on the relationship between doubt and discrimination, and how the former is an impediment to the latter:

   “Discrimination is not intellectual, it is experiential. But ironically, it works only if experience is negated. To negate experience you have to have had enough experience to have become disillusioned by experience. If you still entertain doubts about the futility of the pursuit of fulfillment in samsara, discrimination will not work. [This is similar to what the Buddha might have said] But if you are doubt-free on this issue, discrimination works. The criticism that discrimination is “only intellectual” is based on the assumption that there are no qualifications for enlightenment. But, as we have shown, there are many qualifications, all of which can be reduced to the hard and fast, experience-based conviction that the world is not real and the self is real. The negation implied by discrimination is not intellectual either. To simply assert that something is not real is only a preliminary step. You have to actually refuse to indulge the vasanas pushing into experiences, until they are rendered non-binding. You my very well know who you are and who you are not, but your vasanas do not. And even if they did, it is unlikely they would eliminate themselves. You have to do it. There is nothing intellectual about it. Discrimination is a practical, experiential method that has quantifiable results. Every time you negate the not-self, peace and happiness ensue.” (87)

   [Once again, here we have a double-edged sword. On the one hand, "neti, neti," the traditional practice of negating the "not-self," is a useful first step, to reach the witness position, as Swartz affirms, but, since everything is the "self", it has its limits also. Taken to a dogmatic extreme, even "not indulging the vasanas", without the support of liberating Grace, may lead to a devitalised self-consciousness in which one fails to find the I Am or Soul, since these are a priorily negated! One may overlook them because the conclusion to be reached is already pre-determined by the principle of negation and the belief that there is nothing but the "Self." This is a delicate point].


   The sage initially both ascertains and creates a positive form of doubt in his student. He also exists to help remove doubts in the seeker, as they are primary things standing in the way of his realization, especially his doubt that he is or could possibly become realized.

   Byron Katie offers us a practical way to utilize doubt in the practise of self-knowledge. She asks us to consider four questions regarding any thought or story in our mind:

   (1) Is is true?
   (2) Do I absolutely know that it is true?
   (3) How do I react when I believe that thought?
   (4) Who would I be without that thought?

   While not likely a sufficient means to full enlightenment, these are useful thoughts to seriously consider.

   Jah Jae Noh writes:

   "The mind can be lead countless times into the heart, yet it can refuse to believe or accept what is experienced. [i.e., it doubts the truth] To this extent no learning takes place. So faith is the vehicle, the mode of learning. Understanding, which is the mind's acceptance of the heart, is the activity of faith." (88)

   On the subject of resistance, doubt, and lack of faith, he writes that, in the end, “Truth simply outlasts the student.”   Adyashanti makes the following assertion relating to doubt as an apparent impediment:

   "Enlightenment depends to a large extent on believing that you are born for freedom in this lifetime, and that it is available now, in this moment." (89)

   Some of the biggest blocks or forms of doubt are thinking one has more 'work' to do, or that one is not 'worthy', or that one is not 'ready'. [Of course, these could also be healthy signs of an honest self-assessment]. These are examples of believing in one's mind, which is not a reliable indicator of when realization will or will not happen. As Anthony Damiani once said, "even when you're ready you're not ready." Ramana Maharshi made similar remarks:

   "This very doubt, whether you can realize, and the notion 'I-have-not-realized' are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also."

   Nagarjuna said:

   "If you receive beneficial teachings
   Through the kindness of the guru,
   You will still be liberated,
   Though you think, 'I shall not be.'

   Once again, the inquiry suggests itself, “Who is the one who doubts?” And “why doubt” - what is the pay-off? The pay-off is to remain in the relative comfort of a limited, known world, in stead of risking moving or simply looking beyond ones fear of the unknown into a new world of Reality.

   Ramana relentlessly worked at removing the doubts of his listeners:

   “People would not understand the simple and bare truth - the truth of their everyday, ever-present and eternal experience. That Truth is that of the Self. Is there anyone not aware of the Self? They would not even like to here it (the Self), whereas they are eager to know what is beyond - heaven, hell, reincarnation. Because they love mystery and not the bare truth, religions pamper them - only to bring them around to the Self. Wandering hither and thither, you must return to the Self only. Then why not abide in the Self here and now?”

   D: "Raising the question [Who am I?] no response comes from within."
   M: "What kind of response would you expect? Are you not there? What more? The inquirer is the answer and there is no other answer."

   “There is no mystery greater than the following: ourselves being the Reality, we seek to gain reality. We think there is something hiding our reality, and that it must be destroyed before the reality is gained. That is ridiculous. A day will dawn when you will yourself laugh at your past efforts. That which will be on that day you laugh is also here and now.”

   D: "So it is a great game of pretending?
   M: Yes."

   “Be what you are...That which is is always there...What are you waiting for? The thought, “I have not seen,” the expectation to see, and the desire of getting something are all the working of the ego. You have fallen into the snares of the ego. The ego says all that, and not you. Be yourself and nothing more.”

   “Who says it is not felt? Does the real “I” say it or the false “I” ?”

   “The feeling “I haved not realized” is the obstruction to realization. In fact, it is already realized; there is nothing more to be realized.”

   “To say that one is apart from the Primal Source is itself pretension; to add that one divested of ego becomes more pure and yet retains individuality only to enjoy or serve the Supreme, is a deceitful strategem.”

   “You are always in the Self and there is no “reaching” it.”

   “There is no reaching the Self. If the Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now, but that it should be got anew. What is got afresh, will again be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say, the Self is not reached. You are the Self. You are already That.”

   Paul Brunton similarly wrote:

   “..the Overself is with him here and now. It has never left him at any time. It sits everlastingly in the heart. It is indeed his innermost being, his truest self. Were it something different and apart from him, were it a thing to be gained and added to what he already is or has, he would stand the risk of losing it again. For whatever may be added to him may also be subtracted from. Therefore, the real task of this quest is less to seek anxiously to possess it than to become aware that it already and always possesses him." (91)

   Nisargadatta says:

   "You need not get at it, for you are it. It will get at you, if you give it a chance. Let go your attachment to the unreal and the real will swiftly and smoothly step into its own....You need not reach out for what is already with you. Your very reaching out makes you miss it. Give up the idea that you have not found it and just let it come into the focus of direct perception, here and now, by removing all that is of the mind....There is no second, or higher self to search for. You are the highest self, only give up the false ideas you have about your self. Both faith and reason tell you that you are neither the body, nor its desires and fears, nor are you the mind with its fanciful ideas, nor the role society compels you to play, the person you are supposed to be. Give up the false and the true will come into its own." (92)

   Staying on topic, keeping the sense of Presence in mind is even more important, albeit difficult, if one is going through a
dark night of the soul, in which one's ego is dismantled and increasingly disoriented, often through much trial and pain, causing one to doubt everything about oneself. One may wonder if he is doing something wrong, or if he is worthy in the eyes of God - whether, in fact, he is actually being abandoned by God - He may doubt his ability to do right things or make good decisions, question whether his path is the right one or not, feel that he is a failure in both life and spiritual matters, fear he is being destroyed and that nothing good will ever come his way again. All of this self-doubt is useful if it teaches surrender, an essential attribute of a healthy soul. It is helpful, although still likely to be forgotten in the deepest depths of despair, to know that others have gone this way before:


   St. John of the Cross wrote:

   "And when the soul suffers the direct assault of this Divine Light, its pain, which results from its impurity, is immense; because, when this pure light assails the soul, in order to expel its impurity, the soul feels itself to be so impure and miserable that it believes God to be against it, and thinks that it has set itself up against God. This causes it sore grief and pain, because it now believes that God has cast it away...the soul now sees its impurities clearly (although darkly), and knows it is unworthy of God or of any creature. And what gives it the most pain is that it thinks that it will never be worthy and that its good things are all over for it." (93)

   "Wherefore the soul that God sets in this tempetuous and horrible night is deserving of great compassion...by reason of the dreadful pain which the soul is suffering, and of the great uncertainty which it has concerning the remedy for it, since it believes..that its evil will never end... It suffers great pain and grief, since there is added to all this (because of the solitude and abandonment caused in it by this dark night) the fact that it finds no consolation or support in any instruction nor in a spiritual master. For, although in many ways the director may show it good reason for being comforted because of the blessings which are contained in these afflictions, it cannot believe him. For it is so greatly absorbed and immersed in the realization of those evils wherein it sees its own miseries so clearly, that it thinks, as its director observes not that which it sees and feels, he is speaking in this manner because he understands it not; and so, instead of comfort, it rather receives fresh affliction, since it believes that its director's advice contains no remedy for its troubles." (94)

   "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy." (Ps. 147:11) Again, "For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth (accepteth)." (Heb. 12:6)

   Steven Harrison speaks to the overall confusion one inevitably faces:

   "We have misunderstood our confusion when we think there is an answer to it. The confusion is not a result of questions that are too hard, but rather a questioner who is disintegrating. Confusion is the introduction to true intelligence." (95)

   And the method of dealing with it is different than other states. There really is not much you can do, other than be silent, or ask, " 'Who' is confused?" As Jeff Brown writes:

   "Where emotional confusion had built in release valves such as crying or raging, my existential confusion didn't seem to resolve itself through expressive means. To get to the other side, I had to hold to the misery without release." (96)

   Confusion is not only misery, however, for when relaxed into it is a kind of wonder and delight and peace, the relief from the burden of knowing.

   Sri Ramana emphasizes:

   “Know the doubter. If the doubter be held, doubts will not arise. Doubts must be uprooted. This means the doubter must be uprooted.”

   “You are already the Self. Therefore, realization is common to everyone. Realization knows no difference in the aspirants. This very doubt, “Can I realize?” or the feeling, “I have not realized,” are the obstacles. Be free from these, also.”

   “To remain without questions or doubts is the natural state.”

   "Because you have lost hold of the Self, thoughts afflict you; you see the world and doubts arise, along with anxiety about the future. There is no use of removing doubts. If we clear one doubt, another arises, and there will be no end of doubts. All doubts will cease only when the doubter and his sourced have been found. Seek for the source of the doubter, and you will find he is really non-existent. Doubter ceasing, doubts will cease."

   “Realization is nothing to be got afresh. It is already there. All that is necessary is to be rid of the thought, “I have not realized.”

   “So long as there is doubt or the feeling of non-realization, an attempt must be made to rid oneself of these thoughts.”

   “The very thought of difficulty is the chief obstacle. A little practice will make you think differently.”

   Shri Atmananda said the same thing:

   "The thought that certain things are obstacles to spirituality is itself the first obstacle." (97)

   Doubt of ones essential nature, or existential doubt, can be dealt with in three ways: question "who is doubting?", see that doubt is something perceived by a perceiver, and find that perceiver, or surrender to Grace as God or Guru. Ramana suggested asking the question "Who is doubting?" That is, to see if you can find a "who" that is doubting. You won't find one, certainly not as a fixed entity. That is the commonly accepted answer in non-dual circles. But maybe you will, perhaps not only through a process of inquiry, but, through inquiry and Grace, maybe you will... find your Soul?

   Merely because one has no doubts doesn't mean he is enlightened. One might simply be unconscious! Therefore, being free of the mind does not necessarily equate with reaching Ultimate reality. There are a number of states beyond the thinking mind, in fact, many types or degrees of "no-mind," or "not-knowing." There is an energetic component to enlightenment as well, including, according to Anadi, an "expansion into Being." It is not just an insight.

   Ramana continues hammering away at our misconceptions:

   D: "I cannot go within sufficiently deep."
   M: "It is wrong to say so. Where are you now if not in the Self? Where should you go? All that is necessary is the firm belief that you are the Self.”

   “Why should you be liberated? Why not remain as you are now?”

   “The Self is always realized. There is no seeking to realize what is already - always - realized. For you cannot deny your own existence. That existence is consciousness - the Self.”

   [ Is it always, already realised? Is it so? How do you know? What does that mean? These are important questions ].

   The Dalai Lama said, “he who denies [doubts] his own existence is a fool.

   Dziuban in a similar vein writes:

   “One never takes on an attitude of, “Oh, what’s the use? The human finite world is all dream anyway, so why care about anything?” One never says, “I’m not here.” [there is no me, no self, etc.] One most definitely is here. One is present as Perfect Being, Pure Infinity. Your Intelligent Being will never pass away, for it does not coexist with time in which it could pass away.” Your life is present eternally, which means “forever and ever and beyond,” and yet it is always Now.” (98)

   One might also emphasize in different language that one is present bodily as Perfect Being, Pure Infinity, paradoxically both finite And Infinite, enduring a crucifixion that is inescapable, a marriage or fusion of consciousness/being AND the human condition, in all its bittersweetness and fullness of Life.

   PB said a somewhat similar thing about the enlightened state:

   "One is both in the body and in the Overself. There is..no contradiction between the two." (99)

   And to repeat:

   "The Overself will overshadow him. It will take possession of his body. There will be a mystical union of its mind with his body. The ego will become entirely subordinate to it." (100)

   Adyashanti, too, speaks of progressive embodiment after awakening to consciousness. He also has said that many spiritual seekers are more afraid of life than they are of death. This is due partly to the wounds of childhood, as well as a primary shock of birth, when consciousness first confronts (unconsciously) its own manifestation as an other. By the age of two the concept of a 'self' and an 'other' is more solidified; the ego is born. This is a normal and appears a necessary part of human development, and, in fact, required for eventual enlightenment. It is also, however, something to be outgrown later.

   Sri Nisargadatta reminds us that we are not helplessly cast adrift to do everything on our own, that there is always help available:

   "You are never alone. There are powers and presences who serve you all the time most faithfully. You may or may not perceive them, nevertheless they are real and active." (101)

   The words of Hakuin come to mind:

   "Not knowing how near the Truth is, People seek It far away, -- what a pity!...As the eternally quiescent Truth reveals Itself to them, This very earth is the lotus-land of Purity, And this body is the body of the Buddha."

   Adyashanti writes:

   "The biggest barrier to awakening is the belief that it is something rare. When this barrier is dropped, or at least you start to tell yourself, "I really don't know if my belief that awakening is difficult is true or not," then everything becomes instantly available to you. Since this is all that exists, it can't be rare and difficult unless we insist it is. The basis of all this is not theoretical, it is experiential. No one taught it to me, and no one can teach it to you." (102)

   While agreeing that quite a number have attained some degree of siddhi or mukti, Anandamayee Ma plainly stated that:

   "Only one in ten millions arrives at complete realization. it is very, very rare." (103)

   Sant Kirpal Singh, Sri Ramakrishna, PB, anadi, and many others would agree with her. Adyashanti himself, while stating that awakening itself is not as rare as it has been made out to be, also has been forthright that egos are not exactly dropping like flies as the 'New Age' makes it out to be. Complete transformation is still elusive. He is in good company, however, with what he did say. Sri Nisargadatta states:

   "Don't pretend to be what you are not, don't refuse to be what you are." (104)

   And Ramana adds:

   “Unless you exist, you cannot ask questions. So you must admit your own existence. That existence is the Self. It is already realized. Therefore, the effort to realize results only in your realizing your present mistake - that you have not realized your self. There is no fresh realization. The Self becomes revealed."

   [ But doesn't saying that it "becomes revealed" imply that at some point it is not yet realised? ]

   D: "That will take years."
   M: "Why years? The idea of time is only in your mind. It is not in the Self. There is no time for the Self. Time arises as an idea after the ego arises. But you are the self beyond time and space; you exist even in the absence of time and space.”

   “Realization is our nature. It is nothing new to be gained. What is new cannot be eternal. Therefore, there is no need for doubting if one would lose or regain the Self.”

   "People seem to think that by practicing some elaborate sadhana the Self will one day descend upon them as something very big and with tremendous glory, giving them what is called sakshatkaram [direct experience]. The Self is sakshat [direct] all right, but there is no karam or kritam about it. The word karam implies doing something. But the Self is realised not by doing something but by refraining from doing anything, by remaining still and being simply what one really is."

   Yes, but one may ask, "how does one reach a state of 'not-doing?'" Even when one sits quietly he is still doing something. anadi says that first one must become present to oneself, before he really can talk of not-doing. True "not-doing" is a state of Being, not of mere mental quiet. This was a problem that Papaji may have created among some of his followers. As Swartz has said, "silence is not incompatible with ignorance." Was it likely, then, that Grace awakened people in Ramana's company, not only their sitting quietly?

   There is another aspect of confronting doubt: as a benefit to the teacher himself. V.S. Iyer states:

   "Teaching others helps you learn because you will have to face their doubts, make their doubts your own and then conquer them for both pupil and yourself."

   What have they said? - you teach what you want to learn.

   I must admit one final doubt, a currently somewhat heretical one expressed here and there throughout this paper, which is whether or not the current non-dualists have the highest teaching or final realization. Why do I allow this doubt?

   For one thing, as PB once wrote, "their teachings have no cosmogony. Why not?" They say that there is no need to do so, and that all of that is illusory. And, it must be admitted, there is plenty of precedence in the traditional wisdom teachings for one to see things that way.

   Yet even PB speaks of a homecoming:

   "The very idea of a quest involves a passage, a definite movement from one place to another. Here, of course, the passage is really from one state to another. It is a holy journey, so he who is engaged on it is truly a pilgrim. And as on many journeys, difficulties, fatigues, obstacles, delays, and allurements may be encountered on the way, yes! And here there will certainly be dangers, pitfalls, oppositions, and enmities too. His intuition and reason, his books and friends, his experience and earnestness will constitute themselves as his guide upon it. There is another special feature to be noted about it. It is a homeward journey. The Father is waiting for his child. The Father will receive, feed, and bless him." (105)

   And Ramana said that in his initial death experience he was "taken over by a great Power." PB likewise wrote:

   "When man shall discover the hidden power within himself which enables him to be conscious and to think, he will discover the holy spirit, the ray of Infinite Mind lighting his little finite mind." (106)

   What are we to make of such comments, in the light of non-dual teachings?

   "The Higher Power knows what to do and how to do it. Trust it." (107)

   Peace be unto all beings!

(1) Rene Descartes, Meditations
(2) Jeff Brown, Soulshaping (Toronto, Canada: Pipek Press, 2007), p. 48, 39, 175, 176
(3) Ibid, p. 127
(4) Ibid, p. 74
(5) Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, NY: Larson Publications, 1987), Vol. 6, 8:1.158
(6) Ibid, Vol. 2, 1:5.19
(7) see
The Great Uniqueness on this website.
(8) Brunton, op, cit., Vol. 2, 1:5.19
(9) Ibid, Vol. 6, 8:1.127
(9a) Ibid, Vol. 5, Part 1, 2.40
(9b) Ibid, 1.295-296; 2.61
(10) Alice Miller, Reclaiming Your Life (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1996), p. 105
(11) Richard Moss, The Mandala of Being (New World Library, Novato, California, 2007), p. 202-204
(12) Jeff Brown, op. cit., p. 36
(13) Ibid, p. 116
(14) Ibid, p. 102-103
(15) Ibid, p. 135
(16) Ibid
(17) Ibid, p. 22, 118
(18) Adyashanti, “Love Returning to Itself”, The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy, ed John J. Prenderegast, Peter Fenner, Sheila Krystal (St. Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House, 2003), p. 64, 62
(19) Ibid, p. 66
(20) Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 3, Part 1, 2.112
(21) reference misplaced
(22) Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 6, 8:2.15
(23) Anthony Damiani, Standing In Your Own Way (Burdett, NY: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 125-126, 170
(24) Colin Drake, Beyond the Separate Self, p. 99
(25) Aziz Kristof (Anadi), The Human Buddha: Enlightenment for the New Millenium (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000), p. 316
(26) Richard Hanson with Richard Mendius, Buddha's Brain (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2009), p. 89-90
(27) John J. Prenderegast, Peter Fenner, Sheila Krystal, ed., The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy (St. Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House, 2003), p.7
(28) "A Short Note About Suffering” by Jeff Foster (www.lifewithoutacentre.com)
(29) K.N. Upadhyaya, Buddhism: Path to Nirvana (Radhaspoami Satsang Beas, 2010), p. 197
(30) Soamiji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Poetry, (Beas: India), reference misplaced
(31) S.B. Shastri, Lalisavastara, Hindu tr., p.189
(32) Aziz Kristof (anadi), Transmission of Awakening (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass., 1999), p. 270
(32a) Edward Salim Michael, The Law of Attention (Rochester, Vermont: Inner traditions, 2010), p. 352
(33) Edward Conze, Buddhism: Its Essence and Development, p. 22-23
(34) Gangaji, The Diamond In Your Pocket (Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc., 2007), p. 138
(35) Chang Chen-Chi, The Practise of Zen (London: Rider & Co., 1960), p. 78
(36) Norman Waddell, trans., The Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei 1622-1693 (San Francisco, CA: North Point Press, 1984), book jacket
(37) Peter Haskell, Bankei Zen (New York, NY: Grove Press, 1984), pp. 59-60
(38) Ibid, pp. 59-60
(39) Abbot Zenkei Shibayama, A Flower Does Not Talk (Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1970) p. 110
(40) Ibid, p. 114
(41) Ibid, p. 46-47
(42) Hubert Benoit, Zen and The Psychology of Transformation (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1990), p. 230-231
(43) Ibid, p. 121
(44) Ramesh Balsekar, Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj (Durham, NC: The Acorn Press, 1982), p. 95
(45) Benoit, op. cit., p. 158-159
(46) Ramesh Balsekar, op. cit., p. 192-193
(47) Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2011), p. 90-93
(48) Peter Dziuban, Consciousness Is All (Nevada City, CA: Blue Dolphin Publishing, Inc.), pp. 11-13
(49) Ibid, p. 72
(50) V.S. Iyer, Commentaries, Vol. 1, p. 42
(51) Balsekar, op. cit., p. 33, 499
(52) Ibid, p. 38, 61
(53) Ibid, p. 164
(54) Dialogue On Non Duality With Jeff Foster – Interview by Paula Marvelly
(55) James Swartz, How To Attain Enlightenment (Boulder, CO: First Sentient Publications, 2009), p. 24
(56) The Seven Steps to Awakening, (The Freedom Religion Press, 2010) p. 23
(57) Sri Nisargadatta, I AM THAT, p. 518
(58) The Seven Steps to Awakening, op. cit., p. 41
(59) Ibid, p. 30-31
(60) Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, p. 360
(61) The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind, p. 29-30
(62) Sri Nisargadatta, I AM THAT, p. 291
(63) Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol 16, Part 4, 2.139
(64) Sri Nisargadatta, op. cit., p. 400, 455
(65) V.S. Iyer, op. cit., reference misplaced
(66) Mud and Water, p. 110
(67) The Realization of the Certitude of Appreciative Awareness and Ethical Action (Prajnopayaviniscayasiddhi), ch. 2, in Edward Conze, Buddhist Texts Through the Ages, p. 242-243
(68) Garma C.C. Chang, The Practise of Zen (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1959 (1970), p. 104
(69) Patrul Rinpoche, Words of My Perfect Teacher, (Schambala, Rev. Sun ed., 1998), p. 144
(70) The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, p. 23
(71) Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 2, 3.286
(72) Ibid, Vol. 16, Part 1, 5.183
(73) Iyer, op. cit., p. 59
(74) Sri Nisargadatta, op. cit., p. 20, 457-458
(75) Ibid, p. 298
(76) Eden Steinberg, ed., The Pocket Pema Chodron (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2008), p. 32-33
(77) Pabongka Rinpoche, Liberation In the Palm of Your Hand, (Wisdom Publications, U.S.; Revised edition edition (Dec 1997), p. 347
(78) Ibid, p. 485-486
(79) Ibid, p. 338
(80) Kirpal Singh, Life and Death: The Wheel of Life and The Mystery of Death (Sanborton, NH: Sant Bani Ashram, 1980), p. 68 in The Mystery of Death
(81) Ibid, p. 83
(82) Deepak Chopra, Life After death (New York:harmony Books, 2006), p. 82-83
(83) quoted in: Patrul Rinpoche, op. cit., p. 356
(84) Rodney Smith, Stepping Out of Self-Deception, source misplaced
(85) Sri Nisargadatta, reference misplaced
(86) Ramesh Balsekar, Experience of Immortality (Bombay: Chetana (for Sudhakar S. Dikshit), 1984), p. 79
(87) Swartz, op. cit., p. 223
(88) Jah Jae Noh (Edwin Smith, Do You See What I See? (Wheaton, Illinois: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1977), p. 146
(89) Adyashanti, The Impact of Awakening, p. 8
(90) Quoted in Pabongka Rinpoche, op. cit., p. 255
(91) Paul Brunton, The Wisdom of the Overself (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1984), p.441
(92) Sri Nisargadatta, op. cit., p. 3, 423, 517
(93) E. Allison Peers, trans. The Dark Night of the Soul (Garden City, New York: Image/Doubleday, 1959), p. 102-103
(94) Ibid, p. 110-11
(95) Steven Harrison, Doing Nothing: Coming to the End of the Spiritual Search (New York, New York: Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam, 1997), p. 29
(96) Jeff Brown, op. cit., p. 67
(97) Shri Atmananda, reference misplaced
(98) Dziuban, op. cit., p. 248
(99) Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., v6, 8:1.127
(100) Ibid, Vol. 16, Part 1, 2.251
(101) Sri Nisargadatta, op. cit., p. 457
(102) Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing, reference misplaced, www.adyashanti.org/
(103) Ram Alexander, Death Must Die: A Western Woman's Life-Long Spiritual Quest in India with Shree Anandamayee Ma (Varanasi, India: Indica Books, 2006 (2002), p. 546
(104) Sri Nisargadatta, op. cit., p. 213
(105) Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 2, 1.25
(106) Paul Brunton, reference misplaced)
(107) All Ramana quotes from: Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, California: Inner Traditions Publishing, 2001)