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Not A 'One-Shot'

   by Peter Holleran

   "Finding God is not difficult - what is difficult is learning to become a man in the true sense." - Sant Kirpal Singh

   "Mahamati, the purification of the Tathagata of all beings is gradual and not instantaneous." - Buddha, the Lankavatara Sutra

   “Suppose beginners have conditionally attained a moment of sudden awakening to inherent truth, but there are still long-standing habit energies that cannot as yet be cleared. They must be taught to clear away streams of unconscious manifesting habitual activity. Even if there are hundreds and thousands of subtleties to criticize or commend the times, you must gain stability, gird your loins, and know how to make a living on your own before you can realize them. For beginningless eons you have been turning away from the light and plunging into darkness, so illusions are deeply rooted and can hardly be extirpated all at once.” - Kuej-shan, 771-854 (Five Houses of Zen, by Thomas Cleary)

   "Awakening of the heart is not automatic and in the case of most masters, it takes place years after the initial self-realisation. Even kundalini awakening does not necessarily open the heart automatically. Evolution is a complex process and not merely a one-time event.”      - anadi

   “When love becomes more and more sublime, the degree of sacrifice involved also increases proportionately...It demands the whole of the lower self or the death of the ego itself. But to reach it, you must begin to cultivate that love even here, by sacrificing the interests of the lower self, little by little.” - Shree Atmananda Krishnamenon

   “We make growth only by degrees because we separate ourselves from the ego only by degrees. The notion that any man can annihilate the ego overnight is an illusory one. He only seems to do so. What actually happens in such a case is that the annihilation is the final culminating event of a long, hidden process--hidden, that is to say, in former incarnations and abruptly pushing its way into the surface consciousness of the present reincarnation. No man flies to such Himalayan altitudes; he can only climb to them....[The] initial realization has henceforth to be established and made his own under all kinds of diverse conditions and in all kinds of places. Hence his life may be broken up for years by a wide range of vicissitudes, pains, pleasures, tests, temptations, and tribulations....'Give yourself to the Overself' is simple to say, but one must descend and ascend through a number of levels before its full majestic meaning is realized."

   “Nowhere in physical nature do we observe this leap across a chasm, but everywhere everything passes gradually and little by little from one condition to the next. Why should the transition from ego to Overself contradict this universal fact?”

   "The grand illumination is sudden but the process of achieving it is a task so complex that it can be carried through only by successive stages. For the obstructions to be cleared on the way are heavy and numerous while the advances involve shifting from one tentative standpoint to another. The way to ultimate being cannot be traveled in a single leap: there must be a time-lag until the moment when it actually dawns. The interval naturally falls into elementary, intermediate, and advanced stages...When these two - intellect and feeling - are properly coordinated, and the character is both properly developed and purified, the Overself in a person begins to shine of its own accord."

   “The student travels through the different stages of the journey to supreme truth. But without competent guidance he may fall into the error of mistaking one of the stages for the truth itself. He does not usually understand that there is a graded series of developments, each one of which looks like the truth itself, and that only after all these have been passed through can he reach the glorious culminating goal...Such an attainment as philosophy proposes cannot be reached all at once. It must be approached through a series of preparatory steps. They will be slow in pace at first, but quicker later and sudden towards the end.

   “The glimpse is a memorable experience, but it is not enough. It shows him a possible future, but he must henceforth bring all that into his everyday life and into his whole being. This needs time, practice, patience, vigilance, self-training, and more sensitivity.”
[note: in Zen, for instance, this is known as “the practice after satori,” or “the downward practice.”]

   “Wisdom does not come overnight. It needs time to ripen. But Revelation can come in that way..” But its recipient will still need time to adjust to it, and to integrate with it.”
(1) - Paul Brunton

   "Do you know that it is only very gradually the self-love dies, and that we learn to live only in God and for God? This is affected by a constant fidelity in carrying out those sacrifices demanded by the interior spirit; sacrifices of the mind, of the will, of every passion and affection, in fine and above all, the sacrifice of an entire submission in every trial, in the perpetual vicissitudes of the soul, and in those sometimes very painful states through which we have to pass in order to be entirely united to God." (1a) - Jean Pierre deCaussade

   An introductory note

   [The use of the word ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ throughout this and other of my writings is not mere editorial license, nor does it reflect a Plotinian grandeur, such as the ‘we’ being the witness self and the Soul; rather, it has a more mundane meaning in that I have had the assistance of a contributing writer, who prefers at this point to remain anonymous. Therefore, I am not as much of a genius - or a fool - as I may seem to be, but share the credit with one whose opinions and viewpoints I have nevertheless come to respect].

   Expansion, awakening, stabilisation, and integration

   "Even if the highest truth were to appear in all its glorious fulness before his mind, he would be unable to recognize it for what it is - much less understand it - if there had been no preparation or purification for it."

   “On this journey there are stages of ascent, stations of understanding, lights of peace, and shadows of despair.”

   "The mind which is purified from desire may easily be calmed. The mind which is calmed may easily be abstractly concentrated. And concentrated, it may then easily be turned upon itself."

   “The glimpse in s a memorable experience, but it is not enough. It shows him a possible future, gives him a new world-view, but he must henceforth bring all that into his everyday life and into his whole being. This needs time, practice, patience, vigilance, self-training, and more sensitivity.”
[note: in Zen this would be referred to as “the practice after satori”]

   “Wisdom does not come overnight. It needs time to ripen. But Revelation can come in that way. But its recipient will still need time to adjust to it, and to integrate with it.”
- PB

   "Time must elapse between sowing and harvesting - nay, even in the growth of such wild grass as the holy Kusa and the like, reflection on the SELF ripens into self-realization by degrees, and in the course of time." - Panchadesi

   "The sun rises at a certain moment, and with it day breaks and all is clearly illumined; the snow and ice, however, take time to break up and melt. A baby is born at a certain moment, though it may take years to walk, talk, and help others." - Jeff Shore (Great Doubt, p. 67)

   "For many lifetimes you have been immersed in ignorance. You are habituated to it. All your deeply rooted beliefs, all your patterns of behavior reinforce ignorance and strengthen its hold over you. This ignorance is so strong, so deeply enmeshed in your psychological structures, it takes a massive effort over a long period of time to break free from it. The habits and beliefs that sustain it have to be challenged again and agin." - Annamalai Swami

   "The sage is the flower, the blossoming of intelligence, throughout eons of time...It is the product of nature's strivings to bring about such blossoms. It takes a long time to produce a sage." - Anthony Damiani

   A favorite phrase of Anthony's when discussing awakening and realisation was saying that it was “not a ‘one-shot,’ it’s never a one-shot.’“ What he meant was that true enlightenment or liberation was a matter of evolutionary growth, spanning many years and many lifetimes. That is a hard-sell in today’s instant everything environment. We feel that for most the idea of gradual progress actualized from within relativity is a sane approach to understanding realization, even while holding in mind that the cessation of egoic seeking and forgetting of all concepts is an important component of its essential foundation. And of course, one never knows which lifetime one is in. Or what moment. And after all, didn’t Eckhart Tolle and others just ‘wake up’ without practice or teacher? Yes, that appears to be so. Without then making things more complicated than they need to be, what does this all amount to for us?

   One might summarize various facets of this multidimensional process as follows: there are, not only stages of ascent, but also stages of descent, stages of understanding, and degrees of purification. This covers the essence of many seemingly contrasting traditions. In this understanding, the process of enlightenment is gradual, but awakening is sudden. And, in many cases, so-called 'sudden enlightenment' is actually 're-enlightenment' to a stage one had reached before, in a prior life.

   Enlightenment, as traditionally implied in all its profundity, is said by many to be a matter of gradual growth and expansion in consciousness, energy, and intelligence. It is in most cases not a matter of only one ‘sudden insight.’ Such insights and awakenings occur and are many, and still, no matter how profound they must also be understood. They do not stand out and say, ‘this is final enlightenment,’ or ‘this is ultimate reality.’ There are, in fact, many states ‘beyond the mind,’ beyond ‘conceptual thinking,’ and also, many dimensions of Being to be crossed before one has arrived at the ‘other shore,’ of the ultimate, the pure subjectivity referred to in the highest teachings, in an uncontradictable and stable way. At least, so say numerous saints and sages. This theme was covered in some detail in The Depths of This Thing, and here we will explore the matter further from a few more angles. There are ‘formless realms,’ deepening stages of absorption, and even multiple stages of happiness, outlined in the scriptures, many of which have been mistaken for the ultimate goal. We are not herein saying that truth is 'deep' or that one must go 'deep'! Only that discerning the real from what seems like it must be the real is not the product of a weekend. Further, events do not always proceed in nice, neat, linear fashion, but through multidimensional shifts. There are so many ups and downs, vicissitudes of life, twists and turns, and ‘shoals and sandbanks’ on the path, that proper guidance is almost considered essential if there is to be much hope of real success. Many seekers are hurt by simplistic or provincial and incomplete teachings that emphasize one type of awakening only. Perhaps even more are hurt by teachings that say ‘the Self is already the case, all you have to do is realise it,’ or even worse, ‘you are already realised.’ anadi answers this type of message with the following:

   “Practice is..essential. It is the sacrifice that evolution expects from a seeker. The human mind, heart and energy have been given to us for a reason, and not just to fall asleep. This reason is to manifest our conscious effort in order to co-create our own awakening.” (1b)

   Awakenings are many, and they are to be valued and respected, but, it could be said, enlightenments are few. And full liberation even more rare. The general pattern, says anadi, is that every ‘sudden’ awakening or shift must then be stabilised and integrated, thus changing an awakening’ to an ‘enlightenment,’ or a ‘state’ to a ‘station,’ to borrow Sufi terminology, before the way is prepared for grace to produce the next ‘sudden’ awakening. It has been suggested that one must not just awaken to presence or consciousness, but also become absorbed into the depths of being, and also awaken the heart or unbounded feeling nature. The body-mind needs time to become prepared to receive the grace necessary to catalyze each further awakening of energy, consciousness, and intelligence - or the traditional Sat-Chit-Ananda, i.e., being-awareness-bliss - to which have also been added in some traditions, spirit, life, love, and power - why limit it to what's often been implied by consciousness? The very brain and nervous system must also become ready for this.

   The stabilisation of an awakening occurs, says anadi, on an energetic level, not just one of insight:

   “It is not self-knowledge only, which brings the presence of the complete state. Self-knowledge, which is the very effort of our intelligence to understand who we are, must be supported by the alchemical transmutation of our energy system.” (2)

   The chief reason that awakenings must be stabilised on an energetic level is so that one need not be self-conscious, to exercise attention and be constantly vigilant, in order to hold onto that state. This, in fact, would be counter to the very notion of enlightenment, and make 'consciousness' a burden too great to bear. At some point, the state maintains itself without ones conscious effort. One example of this relates to the very definition of a sage as one who has a continuity of consciousness throughout all states: waking, dream, and sleep. Certainly this doesn't mean he has a personal or self-conscious awareness in dreams or sleep; that would be unnatural. In the deep sleep state, the consciousness of the sage generally abides in 'unconsciousness'; this, it has been said, is a paradoxical condition that is hard to describe, but it is not the same as being self-aware like in the waking state, or say, in lucid dreaming. Saying 'one is aware on an energetic level' is one form of explanation; saying he is consciously unconscious is another. Self-consciousness or egoic-consciousness is simply not there. Bankei said to one monk who drifted off in meditation, "what's the problem? You just fell asleep."

   The lack of energetic stabilisation is at least part of the reason for the 'I got it, I lost it' syndrome. It may be as uncomplicated as that. Stabilisation is also important so that one does not think he must in any way impede the natural flow of thoughts from the subconscious mind or the natural creative thinking processes themselves for fear of losing ones awakening. This would only create a rigid, unfeeling, and unnatural character.

   This is also why even great masters, such as Bankei and Hakuin, after proclaiming with tears of joy the freedom of their initial realisation, were subsequently 'utterly smashed' by their own masters for 'settling for such a small thing.' Then followed twenty or thirty years of further practice deepening and even going beyond their initial 'non-dual' awakening into further reaches of enlightenment. This process is accounted for in all traditions. As Ed Muzika writes:

   "The very great Zen master Joshu was asked how many Satoris or awakenings had he had. Joshu responded that he had 17 great awakenings and thousands of minor awakenings. Joshu spent 60 years between the time of his first awakening and when he first accepted students. He spent 60 years after the first awakening, expanding and deepening it, and then bringing it into his personal life and returning to the world." (3)

   Bankei confessed:

   "When it comes to the truth I uncovered when I was twenty-six and living in retreat at the village of Nonaka in Ako in Harima - the truth for which I went to see Dosha and obtained his confirmation - so far as the truth is concerned, between that time and this, from beginning to end, there hasn't been a shred of difference. However, so far as penetrating the great truth of Buddhism with the perfect clarity of the Dharma Eye and realizing absolute freedom, between the time I met Dosha and today, there's all the difference of heaven and earth!" (4)

   If the reader notices that I again and again make use of various references such as the one above, it is because I am in agreement with the poet Goethe, who wrote:

   "Truth has to be repeated constantly, because error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude."

   Ramama Maharshi spent sixteen years in caves in samadhi, eradicating vasanas of embodiment, after his initial 'death' event before taking on any students. Kirpal Singh had a government job for thirty five years while meditating eight hours a night and experiencing advanced spiritual states, yet even after becoming a master he went on retreat for six months meditating sixteen hours a day before accepting disciples, and even then still visited other teachers for confirmation of his realisation. With all that, he called himself, 'Mr. Zero,' and said, 'that man who wants to be a guru, I feel sorry for him.'

   Almost all of the great ones have engaged a 'post-enlightenment' sadhana. Is there any reason it should be so different today? Better to simmer with ones awakening before hanging out a shingle to teach; it is a grave and sacred responsibility. Paul Brunton (PB) wrote:

   "Through the disappearance of the world during mystical meditation he finds out its non-materiality. This is the Glimpse. But with his return to the world his glimpse changes into a memory only. How to establish it permanently, this harmony between inner vision and outer world, is discoverable only when living and active in the world yet thoroughly understanding the mentalistic nature of the world [i.e., that it is an appearance in consciousness]."

   "The illuminate's viewpoint is not the yogi's viewpoint. The illuminate finds all the world in himself, says the Gita. This means he feels sympathetically at one with all creatures."

   "Such development comes only after many births. And since the truth has to be lived, it must be in practice and not only in theory. Before a man comes to this truth, this mentalism, much time is needed to enable his mind to develop and receive it."

   [And, "One may experience a sense of loss if he has not recovered the degree of awareness achieved in previous incarnations", yet since no one knows how many such births he or she has already had, he should expect the unexpected, and act with faith that it will happen in this very life. Such faith will not go unrewarded - although one's resolve may be tested, as the following passage points out]

   "Because mentalism is to become a vivid fact for him and not remain a mere theory, the advanced disciple will have to convert his joys and agonies into real-seeming dream-stuff. And he will have to achieve this conversion by the power of his own hard will and his own keen understanding. The higher self may help him do this, for he may find that some of the deepest sorrows which befall him are of a special kind. They may be extremely subtle or strikingly paradoxical or tremendous in vicissitudes. For instance, he may be estranged in the most poignant way from those dearest to him, from the master he reveres, the friends he needs, the woman he loves. He may be permitted to meet them in the flesh only briefly and only rarely, so that he will seek compensation by learning the art of meeting them often and long in thought."

   "Even though he knows it is like a dream, he must live, work and act, love, strive and suffer as if the dream were true."

   "The realization of the mentalistic character of our daily life need not curtail its interest, efficiency, or vividness. But there inevitably arises little by little an inward detachment from all things and all creatures, situations, and environments, which is the preliminary sacrifice of the ego before the Overself's Grace can be shed down upon it."

   Sri Atmananda Krishnamenon summarizes much of the sudden/gradual awakening issue with the following quote:

   "Even on the first visualizing of the Truth [i.e., having a true glimpse of reality through the grace and word of the Guru], one is liberated. But the ego seems to function even after that. Yes, Truth was visualized in spite of all adverse samskaras [latent karmic tendencies]. Therefore, now with the additional strength and light of the Truth, you have to face the samskaras and subdue them...The memory of age-long samskaras of satisfaction prompts us still to crave for satisfaction, even when we stand beyond it. Therefore, that false craving has to be ignored as illusion or destroyed in the light of higher reason." [Notes on Spiritual Discourses, #1122, 1240]

   The sequence of devotion to Truth according to Atmananda:

   “According to the Bhagavad-Gita, there are four types of devotees or aspirants. The lowest in the rung of the ladder is artha-‘rthi- the one who approaches the personal God for the attainment of worldly wealth and pleasures. When his efforts are crowned with success on some occasions, his attention is gradually attracted to the person of the God who has been so kind to him, and he desires to know more and more about that God. During this period of transition, he begins to ignore with indifference his own pleasures as well as objects of pleasure. The devotee at this stage is called a jijnyasu - one who yearns to know more about the Truth of God. He continues in this state for some time and his earnestness to realize God and the Truth increases by leaps and bounds. The delay in the fulfillment of this desire makes him pine for it day and night. This state makes him what is called arta - the ‘miserable’. In this state, in most cases, the aspirant happens to meet a Karana-guru. Under instructions from him, the aspirant progresses very quickly. At last he happens to listen to the ultimate Truth from the lips of the Guru. Immediately, he visualizes the Truth and becomes what is called a jnyanin in embryo [~ a ‘baby Buddha’]. He continues his efforts for some time more to get established in the Truth already visualized. Thus in due course he becomes a Jnyanin at all levels. Such a Jnyanin, Lord Krishna says, is his own Atma.” (Ibid, #1202)

   A great misconception, then, has been in assuming that there is either ignorance or self-realisation, with nothing in-between. This an perhaps an inheritance from advaita itself. Even there, many qualifications have generally been required or acknowledged, which can be summed up as emotional, mental, and moral development, cultivated by discipline, that were considered as prerequisites to purify the mind to make it ready to engage the ‘ultimate inquiry’ into consciousness. James Swartz speaks much about this in How To Attain Enlightenment. However, even here, the requirements or preparation are essentially recommended to prepare the mind for inquiry, as if that were the only area of concern. Whereas, true enlightenment needs preparation of the entire body-mind in the great passage to abiding self-realisation. It is not just one sudden moment of ‘seeing’ that occurs, but a complete transformation. This takes time. It is a process in time to the timeless. A paradox, for sure, but can it really be otherwise? I for one definitely wish it were a simple cake-walk, but can it really be so? The individual must decide if that is the case or not, or if he is finally ready to just throw in the towel and surrender.

   Teachings are often watered down today, one shudders to think of what may happen to the great traditions of spirituality, which are often bypassed in favor of a 'new paradigm'. Ignorance is deep, is it really just a matter of ‘getting it,’ or ‘seeing what one has forgotten?’ Maybe we were really born into ignorance - in our first birth - and haven't 'forgotten' anything. It is difficult to even put this into words, as speaking this way implies a process in time and all of its accompanying logical problems. But perhaps we can agree that he natural state, whatever it be, may be simple, but ignorance is complex, and needs a sufficiently complex teaching, fully engaging the mind or intuitive intelligence, and not prematurely assuming limits or defined parameters on this thing called enlightenment. There are different awakenings - even different forms or interpretations of the 'natural state' - but only one true liberation: the awakening within the non-dual reality, beyond time and space - even while dwelling in the domain of time and space - in short, the very unveiling of Truth.

   Even so, this awakening of what PB calls "insight" - the non-dual condition or realization that Mind and its ideas, or Consciousness and its manifestations, are one - is almost never stable after a first glimpse. One does not yet have clear knowledge of what has happened or what is the case, nor does he have the continuous unbroken serenity characteristic of the realized sage:

   "Illumination starts as an advancing process but ends as a sudden event. He grows slowly into Overself-Discovery but the glorious bloom is abrupt. Insight arises of itself and without further striving when the needful preliminaries are finished. What then happens is that there is something like a veritable turning-around at the base of the whole consciousness. He realizes his own immediate oneness with the ultimate by a final flash of enlightenment which effectively removes all doubts and all ignorance for ever. This very first glimpse will be such a tremendous and scintillating revelation to the man that it will leave an ineradicable impression on his mind and he can never forget what he thus learns even if he were to try. His faith in the existence of the inner reality is thereafter absolutely unshakeable and his resolve to carry on with the quest is thereafter completely ineradicable.

   "Anyone who has had such a flash of insight, experience of reality or gleam of enlightenment will naturally desire its constant presence, or at least its continued return at will. But he will find that although insight deals with what is single, ultimate and final, there are separate graduated stages in its unfoldment within man. The time it takes a rose to produce its buds is disproportionately longer than the time it takes those green cases themselves to open and burst into blossom. The unfoldment of insight is like that. The aspirant toils for long wearisome months or years amid emotional moods of darkness and failure, disheartenment and monotony. Suddenly the light breaks, his blindness vanishes and he begins to see again. The flashes of enlightenment swiftly pass, but the adjustment to it of his character and mentality, his life and personality spreads out over a disproportionately long period indeed. Years may pass whilst he waits for the divine visitation to repeat itself. The full dawning of insight is a progressive graded event with time-lapses between each grade."

   He issues an important caveat, however, inasmuch as the determining factor of our past history is largely hidden from us:

   "There are certain patterns of thought which reflect the idea that attainment of this goal is almost impossible, and that the needed preparation and purification could not be even half-finished in a whole lifetime. If these patterns are held over a long period of years, they provide him with powerful suggestions of limitation." (5c)


   A sobering analogy from Madame Guyon

   In chapter eight of the marvelous Les Torrents she compares the spiritual journey, in somewhat harrowing terms, with the process involved in making bread. This is priceless:

   "First the chaff is separated from the grain. This is an example of your conversion and separation from sin. After the grain has been separated, it must be ground by trials and by the cross. The grain is ground until it is reduced to flour. The process, however, is far from finished. The flour is course and must have foreign matter removed from it.

   The flour is kneaded and made into pastry. The flour appears dark as it is kneaded, but the kneading is essential for the flour to be made into pastry. The pastry, in turn, must be put into the fire. After the pastry is baked, it is destined for the king's delight. The king not only looks upon the pastry with delight, he partakes of it."

   She adds:

   "This comparison shows you some of the different aspects of your spiritual journey. It shows you the difference between union with God and transformation.....Not many people come to this place. For this reason, people do not talk much about the cross and transformation. We cannot speak well upon subjects we know little about."

   "When one loses himself in God, he will seem very ordinary. There is nothing that externally distinguishes this one from others...except, of course, his freedom."

   Assuming evolution, what about the ego?

   So, for instance, assuming for the moment there is an evolving process, we appear to see in evolution a grand pageant of growth in consciousness, from the unconsciousness of the slime mold to the subconsciousness of higher animals, to the self-consciousness of man. The development of the frontal cortex in humans was not an accident, but a necessary development to allow the mind (the agent of the soul, which experiences a world only through a brain and body) to develop a sense of self-referral, or ego. This initial ego, much maligned in spiritual circles, was actually a great advance, on this way of looking at things. It has led to much of our suffering, but in its greatest expression or development it becomes the host of the mind, a very agent of intelligence through which we can conceive of and in fact pursue the spiritual path. Intuitive intelligence, our portion of the universal intelligence which runs all of creation, is what allows one to walk the path. The soul calls one to the path, for it is in pain (Plotinus), whether one realises it or not. This is not its native land, insofar as it is not at home in a world where things eat each other to survive! The intelligence, in the quester, observes the various states achieved, compares and contrasts them with its accumulated data-banks of understanding, rectifies errors, allowing for further spiritual developments to unfold. Without the ego we wouldn’t advance beyond the animal stage (even though it seems some animals are more 'human' than people!). It is our greatest enemy at times, but also a friend and guide on the path. Its very intelligence, guided lovingly by the supreme intelligence, is even what informs it that its only purpose is to guide the soul and sacrifice itself in the end. Only a ‘ripe ego’, purified by univeral inteligence and/ or grace is capable of such a supreme act of self-immolation. Even then it remains afterwards. Wherefore anadi states:

   “Our final aspiration, therefore, is not to eliminate the ego, but to transform it into an instrument of inner awakening. In the complete absence of ego no meditation can take place, for the soul requires its energy and intelligence to open the inner state. Only when it has fulfilled its purpose can the ego be fully surrendered to the silence of pure being.” (6)

   A great area of confusion, then, is that of the ego, which, until absolute transcendence, complete liberation, never goes away, and, in fact, when met rightly, helps us and accompanies us through most of the inner awakenings, and realisations. Only in the most extreme cases does it go through an irreversible ‘death’ when the soul is truly ready to exit this dimension and become part of the universal life. There are many lesser deaths along the way, one needn’t worry! Spiritual attainment is freely offered, but it isn’t cheap. Yet it has been said that everyone gets what he desires. This includes the teacher and teaching he is ready to accept in his present state of evolution and intention.

   Awakenings and enlightenment

   We spoke of awakenings and enlightenment. This contrast must be maintained. For it is at the root of so much misunderstanding. There are different kinds and degrees of awakening, all, however, leading to essentially the same fundamental liberation or self-realisation of the ultimate subjectivity (which anadi also for effect refers to as 'absolute objectivity'), call it by many names. Yet, how is one to know if any ‘awakening’ is true, or the truth? There are many awakenings, and they are not necessarily self-verifying. Yes, consciousness, or experience aware of itself, is said to be inherently self-knowing, as the light of cognition, but what if there are further stages of realisation besides this? I know that in non-dual teachings this is usually not considered, but, for now, let us just accept the possibility that maybe there are. Whether there are or not, however, an awakening itself is traditionally said to be recognised and understood through both guidance and intelligence - the latter which may actually take much longer to develop than the awakened states themselves. For one without the other won’t do. “Is understanding nothing?” said Damiani. One must understand what one has awakened to. One must also know ‘who’ recognises that awakening, and not just assume that it is 'awareness' that is aware of 'awareness', or 'experiencing' that experiences 'experiencing,' or any such conclusion.

   Once established, one must make steady and integrate that understanding to create a platform from which he is launched into new depths of realisation. It is a process. ‘Awakenings,’ then, are sudden, while ‘enlightenment’ is the fruit of a great evolution. At least, that's the general idea.

   Much of this hinges on what one assumes enlightenment to be. For Edward Salim Michael enlightenment is, for most seekers, only the beginning of an arduous journey to emancipation. That is, for him enlightenment signifies the awakening of luminous presence, or the experience of the void, but in itself it does not immediately transform the lower nature:

   "Something of this unusual and beatific state must start to accompany the seeker when occupied in his daily work as well...Enlightenment does not necessarily mean liberation...The aspirant will have to face the hard fact that he is still an incomplete being, full of hidden undesirable tendencies, lacking in will and inner strength, and as yet unworthy to serve in a befitting manner. Even if at this stage he tries to impart to others whatever higher knowledge he may have gained, the latter risks being mixed up with inaccuracies, spiritual pride, and sometimes salt and peppered with a little fantasy born of the concealed desire to appear important in other people's eyes...If the aspirant cannot muster in himself the inner courage patiently to face and suffer gain and again the truth of who he is in himself, with all his open or hidden negativities, ill will, conceit, laziness, instability, stupidity, unreliability, and so on, then his sadhana will not have fulfilled its true function for his transformation. It will simply remain a high sounding word in his mouth, empty and unproductive, like a seed fallen on poor soil." (6a)

   Thus, on this view even a nondual awakening may in fact serve to provide the strength to send one down the rabbit hole of his dark side, which must be uprooted completely for true liberation to become stable and the 'gravitational pull' of terrestrial existence to be removed from center stage for a higher, truer life to be realized. Of course, some teachers disagree with any classification of a 'higher' or 'lower' self, an 'animal' side, or any hint of something negative or needing to be transcended. And we are in many ways in sympathy with such a view, within certain limits.

   PB reminds of perhaps the most important quality to remember and cultivate in our life and practice:

   "So important is this virtue of humility that it may be labelled both first and last. The asserted spirituality which lacks this quality but which makes its own personality occupy a prominent position ought to be regarded with suspicion. That is why upon those who really do aspire to the very highest there descends the dread phenomenon of the dark night of the soul. When later they emerge from this awful experience, they emerge with all vanity ground down to powder and all pride burnt down to ash.." (7)

   Kabir likewise said:

  "So what if you have dropped illusion?
   You didn't drop your pride.
   Pride has fooled the best sages,
   Pride devours all."
  - Bijak

   Besides the supreme qualities like sincerity, kindness, patience, determination, humility, and discrimination, which Adyashanti says are heart qualities that help open the door for the absolute to flow, somehow the ‘seed of enlightenment’ must be planted, by grace or by a master, when one is ready and all things are in alignment for it. As Santideva proclaimed:

   “The thought of Enlightenment has arisen within me I know not how even as a gem might be gotten by a blind man from a dunghill."

   This seed is many things: faith, trust in being, attention awakening to itself, the thinker awakening to itself, consciousness becoming self-aware. It is an important stage, where one is first free from the confines of the mind - not that one can’t fall out of it, but it has at least been seen. Yet at this stage one is not yet purified of his negative ego, nor has he established a fully expansive ego, far from it. A long development usually lays ahead, depending on ones background and destiny - which, once again, is an unknown and unpredictable quantity. But, when fully established, this stage does signal the end of the dualistic search, or at least, the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning. From here on the search takes place more and more from the place of surrender, although attention may also be needed to refresh the state of presence-awareness from time to time when it is seen weakening or not so ‘present’!

   The limit of conventional mysticism is that it may propel one into inner but essentially still ‘objective’ states, while the limit of the ‘sudden’ school lies in the assumption that one unprepared and identified with objectivised phenomenality can all at once permanently awaken to the subjectivity itself, and, also, that even this is the final and only goal. If one meditates, which is, in most cases, necessary - in its time and place - for becoming absorbed into the depths of being [in order, as PB said, to leave one with the kernel and not only the husk], the now or timeless dimension, a deep state of rest in 'the womb of the Mother,' one can, however, without the first awakening to consciousness, essentially go on forever without realising the subjective element that makes meditation or contemplation a goal-less activity, one of true non-doing. True meditation, thus, generally needs accompanying inquiry or vichara or some other method or means aimed at finding the subject, the meditator, the one ‘behind the mind,’ even amidst enduring a 'long' traditional route of cultivation of virtue, patience, will, concentration, tranquility, discrimination, and balance - as opposed to singularly isolating some of the newer 'technologies of awakening', such as the ‘awareness watching awareness’ method, or trying to find the observer (which may be difficult), or consciously thinking intensely and trying to recognise the thinker behind the thought. Grace is also needed to awaken this perception, but it is the essential foundation of the rest of the way.

   Those who argue that, “since the goal is ‘no-mind,’ or the ‘non-conceptual’ state, no amount of meditation is useful in attaining that state, and that only direct inquiry has a hope of helping one reach it, often do not realize that inquiry will generally only take one so far, namely, to the state of presence or awareness, which, while essential to free one from identification with the clutches of the collective mind, not only may leave the ego intact and unpurified, but also, without the pull of grace, still unconnected with the deeper dimensions of being. The deeper meditation or contemplation in the domain of being is essentially reserved for one who is already established in the non-dual realisation of presence or consciousness, for one cannot truly ‘do’ non-doing until he has become more or less present and awakened to consciousness. And, further, ones ability to surrender is necessarily limited, and grace is necessary to accomplish the task. We are, of course, speaking of a relatively advanced or mature stage of practice. If all of this sounds hopeless, and heart-breaking, consider it more grist for the mill, and - what can one say - "heaven help us all!" Feel lucky to be reduced to such a state.

   So both aspects, inquiry and meditation, are felt as essential, until one is established in the depths of being and the heart, beyond the need for such formal practice. Of course, we repeat ourselves, grace can considerably shorten this process, and even bypass certain elements. This is just a general framework.

   Notes on 'stories' and suffering

   The simply 'drop your stories', 'this is it', 'you are already enlightened', type of teachings will always be there, but currently more people can relate to the 'karma teachings', where essentially purification is going on, and so we try to include as many points of view and types of experience as possible, so that everyone feels spoken to and included, and no one is marginalized or directly or inadvertently feels judged. One person I knew essentially had to leave the spiritual community she had a long affiliation with because she entered a fiery dark night (though it has been rough her whole life), and no one there understood what she was going through, and often judged her for her experiences, and certainly felt she was a downer. 'Just lighten up.. Be positive... drop the stories.... just this, just that'. Not a very compassionate or understanding response. It is heartening to see many nondual teachers softening and maturing in their delivery and recognizing this.

   From one point of view, what we are basically talking about is suffering. So in considering an idea like the dark night, for instance, we are fundamentally saying that there is a type of suffering with special, spiritual characteristics. Because otherwise, why would it be different from simply reaping bad karma, whether set in motion in the past, or reflecting our current situation? So perhaps we could say there are several types of suffering.

   One of the most basic forms is that a given state of mind, conditioned by particular views and desires, can be said to be inherently uncomfortable or painful. Like anger, which not only can set in motion bad consequences, but also is, in itself, not the most peaceful, harmonious, or otherwise positive feeling. It is stressful, alienating, conflictual and so on. So one type of suffering is simply the suffering inherent in the current components of our state of mind. This type of suffering would include the pain or suffering within any negative state of mind - jealousy, hatred, longing, unfulfilled desires, aversions, judgments, sadness, grief and so on.

   Another type of suffering is karmic in the traditional sense (the first is really a type of karma too) in that it is the effect of causes we set in motion in the past that we may not even currently identify with, but we still must experience the results of them, the working out of them. This is basically a delayed form of suffering.

   Yet another type of suffering is, not entirely different from the others, is the pain of letting go of our current sentimentalities, illusions, and fantasies. It is the pain of 'growing up' spiritually, or recognizing truths such as the futility of seeking happiness through various dualistic pursuits such as wealth, security, personal love, fame, or respect. It is not as if any of these things is somehow necessarily wrong to want. That is a personal choice. It is just that they are not what they are made out to be. They lack true fulfillment or satisfaction, and are transitory. When we face these truths, there is a kind of pain in gradually becoming disillusioned with it all, and, eventually, hopefully, reorienting towards realizing there is an alternative -spiritual value such as inner peace, contentment, love, and so on - which spiritual qualities and, ultimately, transcendent realization, will bring the fulfillment we ultimately seek, but have been looking in the 'wrong' place for. It is like we have had a love affair with samsara or relativity for who knows how long, and in our spiritual awakening, we come to see the futility in it all, we fall out of love with dualism, but we are going to go through phases where we are heartbroken about it, and angry, and deeply alone, because we have lost one lover, but have not replaced it yet with the Beloved. During this we are cleansed of dualistic desires, aversions and attachments, and suffer great alienation, confusion and despair. Suffering through the first two kinds of pain and karma is basically 'ordinary suffering'. But this last type is really only something that becomes acute but during the spiritual path. Many would say that it is unavoidable, though it will probably be more prevalent in some lives than others, and affect people differently to some degree according to what kind of path they are on.

   A final type of suffering is even more basic. It is not necessarily unrelated, again to the others, especially this last one, but is, perhaps, looking at it from another angle. This is the pain of death and rebirth. It results from our core attachment to our sense of identity, and when we face some deeply existential/spiritual shift in our core self-concept, even at an intuitive level, we are going through a kind of change of state that brings up not only great grief and disorientation and despair at the loss of the old way, but also fear of the unknown, whether or what will emerge. And since much of all this type of stuff happens in our subconscious and even superconscious, we aren't even often sure what the suffering is all about. We just get glimpses of it in different lights. This relates more to the classic dark night expoerience, the fundamental purpose of which PB wrote:

   "The Dark Night is not the result of any physical suffering or personal misfortune: it comes from a subtler cause. It induces a depression of enormous weight...The sombre loneliness experienced during the Dark Night of the Soul is unique. No other kind of loneliness duplicates it either in nature or acuteness... It creates the feeling of absolute rejection, of being an outcast...A terrible inner numbness, an unbearable emptiness, is a prominent feature of the spiritual dark night...The situation is really paradoxical and beyond correct appraisal by the conscious mind, certainly by the suffering ego. He is being made to learn, by the severest experience, that the divine reality must not be confused with his conscious reactions to it, nor with his mental reactions to it, nor even with his emotional reactions to it, that it belongs to an unknown and unknowable realm that transcends human faculties and defies human perceptions...It is not enough to recognize the Real in its homeland alone; he must be trained to recognize it under all conditions, even when it is hidden under thick illusion, even in the lowest ebb of the soul's dark night." (8)

   This might be said, in general, to be a form of suffering brought on by grace, either from one's soul, the divine, the universe (the 'womb of the Buddhas') or an enlightened master.

   The cases where people seem to have the worst time are when all of these are going on at the same time, and especially if the past karma aspect of their suffering is particularly difficult. The main form of all of these that we can have much control over is the first one, where we simply try to keep affirming positive qualities as best we can. And then to try to understand and accept the other three aspects, to the extent that they may be relevant to us.

   So there is a difference between these types of suffering, and some of it really is just that we have to face our stuff and suffer our stupidities and missteps. Its a very rare soul who does not have at least some of that work to do. And once the process of energizing deeper soulful realities of virtue and deep awakening have been energized, the process of cleansing, learning and letting go is accelerated, so it can just become rather messy and devastating for a while (sometimes a long while). In the life of the soul, it is not so very long. Our higher individuaity is in a very deep state, but it still longs for sahaja, and has been patiently cultivating wisdom and virtue through numerous lives. When it gets to the point when it is down to a life or two more of serious transformation, a life or even more of deep suffering does not seem to high price to pay for the payoff, which has been anticipated since the moment of individualization countless eons ago (it can't really be spoken of in terms of time). At that stage, for many, it is mostly an endurance test, as Anthony Damiani used to say, just hanging in there, holding on, trying to have faith.

   Some Buddhist perspectives on stages

   This process is why, although the Buddha and all great masters have said, 'try to go all the way in this very life', and also, 'act as if it is already here', they also recognized basic stages of growth. A classic and still useful example of this is the four-fold schema of the Buddha: stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, and Arhat.

   The title of an excellent book on Theravada Buddhism, by U Pandita Sayadaw, is In This Very Life. He exhorted his disciples not to think of enlightenment as a far off goal, or one that necessarily would take many lives, but to set the goal of attaining either the third or fourth stages 'in this very life'. He also said, though, that it depends on both level of effort (and we will add grace!) and also one's karmic situation. He said even from the point of stream-entry it is possible it could take as many as seven more lives to reach the fourth, though these need not all be in the human realm, and that it may be done in less, depending on various factors. When someone like Dipa Ma or Sunlun Sayadaw or Ramana does it very fast (there are even stories from the Pali Cannon of some of the Buddha's disciples simply attending his talks and having direct realization and becoming Arhats in that moment!), these are usually considered the result of practice in past lives, not going through all stages for the first time in one life. It is considered fast to go through two or occasionally three stages in one life. Three would be very fast. But the Buddha also said the longest gap was usually between the first and second, as one is piercing identification with the astral/desire body at the second, and that is the heart of it for most people. So the Buddha said that it is common for the second stager to reach the fourth in either that life or the next.

   As an example, the original path of the Buddist tradition is very simple, but also complex - too complex to fully detail in this essay. For our purposes let us just say that there are eight jhanas or concentrations, four 'with form' and four 'formless'. Sometimes there is added a stage of 'access concentration', and at the other end, nirodha, for a total of ten stages. All of the eight jhanas are still part of relativity; although they get increasingly sublime, universal, blissful, super still, void and transcendent, they still are not complete cessation of 'perception/experience'. For instance, the highest of the eight jhanas, called the sphere of 'beyond perception and non-perception', which has been described by some as a state in which there is such vast stillness and tranquility that the vibrations of consciousness and relativity seem like a super subtle murmur way off in the distance, that is so marginally perceptible that you can't quite feel that it isn't there, but you also can't really make out anything about it. While the non-dual is now infusing into one's normal life to an increasing degree, this state is not yet truly non-dual. Then, passing from one of the major stages to the next (stream-enterer, once-returner, etc.) one goes through the jhanas again, in some form or another (depending on tradition - you may not be a Buddhist in the next life!), but at a deeper level and with more karmic purification. After each pass through the sub-stages there is a 'path moment' where one permanently shifts to a new level.

   To repeat - and complicate further - the Buddha also used the term jhana in two ways - trance jhanas, but also vipassana-jhanas. The former were absorptions leading to samadhi trance, and the latter simply designated the various stages to absorption or deep concentration in various states of contemplation/realization as they arise doing vipassana, sometimes calling such a practitioner who bypasses the trance samadhis a 'dry contemplator'. It doesn't matter, in the end it all works out the same. There were four of these basic vipassana-jhanas that one progresses through stage by stage, culminating in a satori experience (a kind of fifth stage). Then one must return to the second vipassana-jhana, which would again ripen by doing vipassana through a deeper version of the second, third and fourth vipassana-jhanas a second time, culminating in a second satori or nondual awakening. Again one would return to the second vipassana-jhana, ripen through more realization stages culminating in a third satori (now one is a non-returner). At this point one has completed physical karma, but is not yet in sahaja samadhi (though it is a very peaceful, virtuous, conscious state with easy access in meditation to nondual awareness). Proceeding through the vipassana-jhanas a fourth time culminates in a fourth and final satori from which one does not 'come back out'. One is now an Arhat, permanently established in what Ramana called 'external nirvikalpa samadhi' or sahaja-nirvikalpa samadhi, which he distinguished from internal or trance-based nirvikalpa samadhi. The writings of PB make it clear that the latter person is not at the 'non-returner' stage, because nature will compel him to return and complete his non-dual enlightenment. [I hate to spoil the party, but for the Buddha there are three further 'initiations' or stages beyond that of the Arhat, what to speak of the ten bhumis of the bodhisattva path!]

   Yeshe Tsogyal tells us of her own life and enlightenment:

   From my thirteenth year, I was consort of the king
   And in my sixteenth, I was taken, through compassion by the Guru.
   At twenty, on receiving all empowerments, I embraced ascetic practices, hard to do.
   At thirty I attained accomplishment,
   And fostered beings' good.
   At forty I attained the level of my Guru's mind,
   And at fifty vanquished demons, guarding thus the Doctrine.
   At sixty, I promoted learning, prospering the Sangha,
   And at seventy, I touched the Real.
   When I reached the age of eighty,
   The Guru went away to the southwest.
   At the age of ninety, the nature of reality I saw, perceiving it directly, And when I reached my hundredth year,
   My awareness touched it's utmost reach.
   Twenty years then passed and I became
   Preceptress to the pious king
   And then ten years after that I crossed
   The length and breadth of this Tibetan land.
   When my age attained one hundred and fifty years
   Treasures I concealed, ensuring thus the benefit of beings.
   Ten years later Mutri Tsenpo died,
   A hundred years and seventy was my age.
   I laboured for the rest of my disciples,
   While at Lhodrak, ten years afterwards,
   I sent forth emanations,
   And ten years after that I met
   My sister, Queen of siddhas.
   Highest pith instructions she bestowed on me
   And I attained the siddhi of Imortal Life:
   The "facts" of birth and death were dissipated then and there."

   ('Lady of the Lotus-Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal', Gyalwa Changchub, Namkhai Nyingpo, p.167)

   Stages in other traditions and their non-arbitrary nature

   Parallels of this can be seen in all major schools, such as the 'stations of the soul' in Sufism (which relate to the 'virtues'), the sapta-jnana-bhumi model of the Yoga-Vasishtha (where stages four-seven are jivanmukta), and other models in various bhakti traditions. These stages represent 'initiations, or certain major transitions in an individual’s spiritual evolution. The turning point of each of these initiations (a ‘satori’ or non-linear moment of awakening) is also a time of receiving a powerful moment of transmission from an initiating source, although this process may take place primarily in subtler dimensions and so be outside of the awareness of the physical self. Sources of initiation or transmission may be physical or non-physical, human or non-human. Human would be the spiritual Master, saint or sage. Non-human and ‘trans-human’ sources may include archangels, liberated buddhas and bodhisattvas and Deities such as the Christ Logos or perhaps beings like Tara.

   These are not arbitrary ideas. They relate to a science of awakening that reveals the underlying structure of creation and human nature, and is related to things like the elements. The first four stages, for instance, are related to the first four form elements. When we have 'heated up' our nature enough with spiritual fire to have thawed out the frozen nature of our ordinary consciousness (spiritually speaking) and have reached the melting point, we make a natural transition to another state, water or liquid, and are now in a new realm of consciousness. In the same way that there is an understandable order to this in chemistry, so, too, is there an order in stages of the path. Whole books could be written about each of the stages, the entire process, its underlying science, and the way it looks in various paths, how they are different yet have the same underlying patterns, and so forth. And when we make the quantum jumps from one stage to the next, there is a corresponding 'dark night' because some level of our nature is dying and being reborn to the next level, and simply does not know what that will be like. Solid must let go of solid and surrender to its underlying liquid nature to know what that is like, and until it does, it will fear the loss of the familiar, and the unknown of what is emerging.

   So, once again, while there are glimpses of the awakened condition at any stage, the whole affair is 'not a one-shot'. There is a progressive deepening, integration, and actualization of the absolute state within relativity. It is admitted that those on a 'direct' path will no doubt think of all this as complete maya! To which we fully understand and sympathize. Our mission, however - if we choose to accept it - is to act as if nirvana is here and now, while also becoming sober about the relative truths of reality.

   When even the Dalai Lama doesn't refer to himself as realized, one might stand up and take notice.

   Lest one be mind-boggled over the preceeding discussion of the cycle of jhanas, etc., let us simplify by saying that it need not occur as described, the grace factor is also unpredictable, but one simply deepens his understanding from life to life, and has relative awakenings quicker each time - barring accidental interruptions - while also going a step further along the way until he has reached the point of no return. Edward Michael capsulates why in this dream of relativity numerous lifetimes are necessary:

   "If there were only one life for the human being - without the hidden knowledge already in him of its possible recurrence, or at least continuity in some other form - and his existence really stopped forever after his physical death, he would spend his unique life in a state, so to speak, of curious mental obscurity as to the purpose and meaning of his sojourn on Earth, with little or no incentive in him for wanting to live and for wanting to learn anything. Moreover, when he died everything - including whatever knowledge he might have acquired during his single existence - would mysteriously die with him, vanishing forever in an invisible land of total oblivion. All the experiences he so painfully gathered in his one solitary life would have been for nothing. For there would be no possibility of putting into practice the harsh lessons learned from them, both in the service of the Divine and for his own inner growth and spiritual unfolding." (8a)

   Having said that, it must be clearly stated that reincarnation is still not entirely consoling! One's present personality dies, and dies for good [actually, even this has come into question; see Seth Speaks for a discussion of multidimensional reality, in which soul and even multiple personalities are eternal in non-linear time and space! - more on this later] As long as one is exclusively identified with the present personality, however, he may 'suffer' its eventual apparent dissolution or reabsorption, even if it is not annihilated. However, this usually happen in stages, and if one has made some strides spiritually during life, the end may be messy but ultimately peaceful. The true horror, in fact, if one is sensitive to it, is the continuation of the usual form of limited and confined life, not its death.

   Continuing the previous discussion, there are, furthermore, several possible awakenings, and they are not necessarily permanent when first experienced. In fact, they are almost certainly not permanent, hence the need for 'cultivation'. There is the awakening to the state of awareness, aware of awareness, the center of the self in the mind, pure consciousness made steady, and then integrated and relaxed into its more natural state of all-pervading, luminous ‘sky-like mind,’ as spoken of by the Buddhists. This is a great sense of freedom, a more ‘impersonal’ freedom. But it is not the end, although traditionally, because of its universal characteristics, it has often be taken to be the end. Even this, however, is known by something or someone. This knower, we suggest, is the soul. But one need not accept that for now, especially as the word 'soul has many different interpretations and connotations. Enough to know that there is more ground to cover. The ego, the observer, however, paradoxically can even observe this state, and, through its intelligence, may redirect one to it if it appears to have become lost. Thus paradoxically it can be both an enemy and an ally. The relative intuitive intelligence has a great role to play. The intuition of consciousness alone does not ‘do’ it all. It is not a static state that solves all of ones problems, including spiritual ones. A more holistic vision is required. This is a living process.

   There is also suggested, however, the awakening through a subtle form of surrender - once presence is there - to the deeper realm of being, which has many depths. Here one is awakened to a state beyond the dualities of doing and non-doing, self and no-self, and, as Adyashanti has said, a real evolution has occured in such a person. anadi says that for one who has reached the absolute state 'beyond consciousness' (also spoken of by Sri Nisargadatta), the so-called ‘no-self’ realised there is immeasurably greater than the ‘no-self’ realised in the state of presence, for in that 'beyond' one paradoxically meets ones own absence. Both the being and the heart, at their depths, are essentially of the non-spatial beyond and not the realm of 'presence-awareness' alone. They represent a true expansion, something often bypassed or dismissed today in favor of mere insight. Both appear to be necessary. [If one doesn't understand this, above all don't worry - few really do!]

   This, then, may seem abstract for most of us, and in a sense it is. Yet in any case there is a second part of the equation for both the successful meditator or inquirer. This is the return to earth and meeting ones personal self and awakening to that, in all its gritty humanness. PB called this phase the harder of the two. Here all parts of oneself need to be, first, experienced perhaps as never before, i.e., lived through fully, and integrated with one's consciousness. Otherwise one remains 'half-baked.' This can't be stressed enough. And even if we don't stress it, life itself will do so, sooner or later.

   To illustrate this concept of gradual evolution being the chief nature of the enlightenment process, a few quotes from acknowledged masters will help us. First, PB, who spoke of a ‘long path’ of preparation and a ‘short path’ of direct inquiry and surrender to grace (or the Overself), mentioned that the first path is not merely a maturation of the mind, but a making ready of the man in all respects for the reception of the greatest of gifts. It may or may not be short in any one lifetime depending on ones prior background. Stages and sudden awakenings vary from individual to individual. At some unpredictable point, however, PB wrote that ones maturity ‘ignites mystic forces’ within that spontaneously reveals by grace the soul’s enlightened condition:

    ”The Long Path is unutterable irksome whereas the Short Path is gloriously attractive. The one is associated with toil and suffering; its emblem is the Cross. The other is associated with peace and joy; its emblem is the Sun. Yet, those who would prematurely desert the one for the other will find their hopes frustrated in the end, however enthusiastic and rapturous the experience maybe in the beginning. This is because Nature, the Overself, will not let them enjoy permanently what must be taken into every part of their being, properly cleansed and prepared to absorb it, with the being itself properly equilibrated to endure the experience of absorption without stimulating the ego.” (9)

   "The Long Path is taught to beginners and others in the earlier and middle stages of the quest. This is because they are ready for the idea of self-improvement and not for the higher one of the unreality of the self. So the latter is taught on the Short Path, where attention is turned away from the little self and from the idea of perfecting it, to the essence, the real being." (10)

   "It must never be forgotten that the work of the Short Path could only come into being on the basis of work of the Long one, and on the presupposition of its presence." (11)

   "Another reason for the need of the Long Path's preparatory work is that the mind, nerves, emotions, and body of the man shall be gradually made capable of sustaining the influx of the Solar force, or Spirit-Energy." (12)

   "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."

   The reality PB is pointing to in the next to the last quote above, is echoed in the words of Sri Nisargadatta:

   “M: It is only when you are satiated with the changeable and long for the unchangeable, that you are ready for the turning round and stepping into what can be described, when seen from the level of the mind, as emptiness and darkness. For the mind craves for content and variety, while reality is, to the mind, contentless and invariable.
   Q: It looks like death to me.
   M: It is. It is also all-pervading, all-conquering, intense beyond words. No ordinary brain can stand it without being shattered; hence the absolute need for sadhana. Purity of body and clarity of mind, non-violence and selflessness in life are essential for survival as an intelligent and spiritual entity."

   The following dialogue with Ch'an master Hsi Yun should lay to rest any idea that a condition of utter humility where one is ground down to ash is somehow not required for true spiritual realization:

   “Q: Illusion can hide from us our own mind, but up to now you have not taught us how to get rid of illusion.
    A: The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory. Illusion is not something rooted in Reality; it exists because of your dualistic thinking. If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as “ordinary” and “Enlightened,” illusion will cease of itself. And then if you still want to destroy it wherever it may be, you will find that there is not a hairsbreadth left of anything on which to lay hold. This is the meaning of: “I will let go with both hands, for then I shall certainly discover the Buddha in my mind.”
   Q: If there is nothing on which to lay hold, how is the Dharma to be transmitted
   A: It is a transmission of Mind with Mind.
   Q: If Mind is used for transmission, why do you say that Mind too does not exist?
   A: Obtaining no Dharma whatever is called Mind transmission. The understanding of this implies no Mind and no Dharma.
   Q: If there is no Mind and no Dharma, what is meant by transmission?
   A: You hear people speak of Mind transmission and then you talk of something to be received. So Bodhidharma said: The nature of the Mind when understood, No human speech can compass or disclose. Enlightenment is naught to be attained, And he that gains it does not say he knows. If I were to make this clear to you, I doubt if you could stand it.”

   Notice that basically he did not say merely that he doubted if the questioner could grasp it, or understand it, but whether, in his present condition, he could handle it.

   This distinction by PB between a Long Path and a Short Path needs a brief clarification. One does not simply choose between one or the other. At some stage, the Short Path becomes inevitable. Only after rather strenuous initial efforts, in this or a previous lifetime, does one have the understanding, experience, and receptivity to engage the more subtle kind of effort, and effortless effort, called for or made inevitable in the Short Path. That is, one develops a sixth sense on when to surrender to the movement of grace within and when ones own efforts - even if they be the effort to make no effort - are required. Only now is one capable of 'non-doing', which does not mean 'non-vigilance', only that it is a very delicate kind of work that is needed, not the gross effort made at the outset of the quest. The intuition has a much greater role to play. The danger of offering or explaining this second-stage teaching to the beginner is that he will make the mistake of assuming that 'no-effort' is a way or the way. And then he may just stagnate, trying to believe that he is 'already realized', when the depths of his being remain unplumbed. To realize the Soul is not just a matter of 'getting it'.

   A great furnace of metanoia takes place between the Long and Short Path. One becomes a new creature, through a deep cleansing. It cannot be done in isolation, but usually takes the whole world or cosmos to do it. Which is why they call this place 'the womb of the Buddhas'. The result is a deep humility, sense of responsibility, and faith in God. An example will suffice. In a book called Inner River, by Kyriakos Markides, in which the author recounts his time spent among Fathers and saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church, a very interesting story is told. A certain priest was approached by monks who were very upset about the behavior of another monk who was making a nuisance of himself and being very disruptive. The Father said, "the next time I see him he will get a lesson in humility that he will never forget!" The monks were happy and felt that the young monk was to get a real thrashing. When the monk came to see the Father, however, the Elder immediately prostrated himself before the monk and begged for his forgiveness. The monk, understandably, broke down and wept. Some days later, another Father said, "what happened at your monastery the other night? I had a vision that an angel came down and placed a golden wreath around the neck of your Father." Just imagine.

   mKas Grub dge legs dpal bzang (1385-1438) , disciple of the great Tsong kha pa, spoke of the lack of appreciation for the depths of the quest in the practitioners of his day:

   "When the wise begin to analyze what the state of greatest fulfillment for themselves and others is, they will not be satisfied with methods that eliminate suffering and bring about a form of happiness that lasts only the length of this life. The gateway for those who especially seek higher states from the next life on is but one: the teachings, a banner waving over the three worlds, of the one reknowned as the Lord Buddha, the great impartial friend of the world."

   "The ultimate goal toward which every Mahayanist strives is the unity of the dharmakaya and the physical body. To obtain them, one must rely on the inseparability of methods that accumulate the two masses of merit and gnosis into a combined whole. Accumulating these two masses into a combined whole in this way depends on finding certainty as to the non-erroneous way in which the two truths are brought together into a combined whole under the exposition of the basic view. Moreover, unless one has truly found certainty in regards to the working of dependent arising, whereby individual causes give rise in an orderly way to their individual effects, the accumulations of one's mass of merit will not be accomplished faithfully and from the heart, as profound certainty that the mass of merit will give rise to the desired effect will not have arisen."

   "There is no way to find peace
   Outside of the Arya Nagarjuna's path.
   Those who fall outside of the two truths, the conventional and reality,
   Having fallen outside of the two truths, are not liberated."

   In another treatise he lists some of the views he has criticized, among them being "relaxing without feigning anything," "thinking about the consciousness present now," "noticing whatever conceptual thought happens to arise," "meditation on the ineffable object," "seeking who you are," and "looking for the mind." Any of these sound familiar? History repeats itself! He continues:

   "All of these great dialecticians who argue on a variety of topics, such as the emptiness of self and the emptiness of other, and on whether reality truly exists, do not differ in the least when it comes to practicing the meaning of the profound emptiness. Whether they believe that they are practicing the idiot's meditation of not training in anything whatsoever, the practice of the Great Master of the Tripitaka, or that they are practicing the profound completion stage of the anuttarayoga tantra, they all concur on this one point: they posit that no mental object should be established, that the mind should apprehend nothing. This will be seen to be a great den of iniquity when looked upon by those of sharp faculties."

   "Although one can make some slight distinctions between the variety of tenets of these so-called sages, come time to set forth their views concerning emptiness they do not meditate in accordance with these distinctions that they have made...Therefore, they hold to the doctrine that to create nothing within the mind is to meditate on reality, and thus they err in so far as they end up not being able to meditate on selflessness. They repudiate the practice of the path that is the counteractive measure against the way in which we grasp at a self, the root of cyclic existence. They exert themselves in a kind of practice that does not the slightest harm to the way we grasp at the self. Hence, one should be aware of the fact that although many of our own Tibetan practitioners pride themselves on having meditated assiduously on reality for the whole of their lives, that they have not managed to put even the slightest dent in their grasping as a self is a valid effectual reason proving that their practice is faulty. Although they may have attained some level of expertise concerning the proofs and refutations involved in setting forth the view of emptiness at the time of study, when it comes to practicing the profound meaning, they teach a kind of idiot's meditation saying, "create nothing at all in your mind...See for yourself, is there anything to be identified?" As soon as they find some belief of the sort, "this alone is the reality of the mind," they immediately abandon analysis in the logical sphere."

   "Because they believe that when it comes down to meditating on reality one ought not to create anything in the mind, they must of necessity believe that when they set forth they ought not to set forth even in terms of selflessness. In the same way, they must accept that one ought not to put forth even a theory of reality...By holding to such a view there arises a nihilistic attitude in regard to all of the aspects of method. For example, there arises the view that because charity and moral conduct, prostration and offerings, all require conceptualization, they are things to be abandoned...Nowadays there are idiots who understand nothing al all of the view of emptiness and yet who understand the perfect method of meditation in terms of the teaching that one should remain lucid and clear without creating anything in the mind
[a reference to Dzogchen]. Such meditative practices which claim that one should not apprehend either the existence or the nonexistence of a self and that one should abandon whatever is apprehended are in no way different from the meditation of the asamjna (samapatti). There is no being whatsoever who has not generated this trance state in his or her mental continuum at some past time [i.e., in some past life, and it has not freed him from cyclic existence]. So please distinguish carefully between not meditating on a self and meditating on selflessness!" (16)

   Strong words, and they sound so familiar!

   Garma C.C. Chang brings to our awareness the recognized distinction made in Zen and Ch’an Buddhism between the awakening to prajna-truth (or the immediate awakening to transcendental wisdom, emptiness, or no-self) and Cheng-teng-cheuh (sabyaksambodhi), which is the final, perfect, complete enlightenment of buddhahood:

   "A great deal of work is needed to cultivate this vast and bottomless Prajna-mind before it will blossom fully. It takes a long time, before perfection is reached, to remove the dualistic, selfish, and deeply rooted habitual thoughts arising from the passions. This is very clearly shown in many Zen stories, and in the following Zen proverb, for example: “The truth should be understood through sudden Enlightenment, but the fact (the complete realization) must be cultivated step by step.” (17)

   Psychotherapist and spiritual teacher Michael Hall (http://www.waybeyondpsychotherapy.com/), like Ed Muzika above, summarizes the essence of this consideration in an essay called "The Curse of Awakening":

   "The great Japanese Zen master Hakuin once noted that he had 17 great awakenings and thousands of minor ones. He was continuing to practice assiduously as he made the comment. Hakuin was practicing in a culture and a spiritual tradition in which there was a profound respect for the infinite varieties and degrees of awakening and its embodiment by a human being. In the West we love to simplify, ignore nuance, and cut to the chase. What are we to make of Hakuin’s statement, when so many current teachers claim that they woke up at a particular moment in time, and then are done? What would Hakuin think if he wandered into today’s spiritual marketplace free for all?"

   "Even so, how could spiritual awakening be a curse? Isn’t awakening to your true nature the most important experience available to a human being? Well, yes and no. Much has been written about the obvious importance of self-realization, and does not need to be repeated here. What are the downsides? We will only address one potential downside here, and that is the tendency to believe the erroneous assumption that in a genuine awakening you wake up once and for all, and you are finished. Nothing could be further from the truth."

   "There are two major aspects to spiritual awakening. The first aspect is the nondual realization itself. All major spiritual traditions (Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, traditional Advaita Vedanta) which have incorporated awakening as a central aspect of their teaching recognize that there are many “levels” of awakening. Direct awareness itself does not have levels, or any other qualities that can be described. However, the manifestation and embodiment of this awareness by a human being living at a particular time, in a particular culture, and in a particular bodymind with its own unique history and lineage is subject to infinite degrees of realization. This distinction between pure awareness and its embodied manifestation, which seems so obvious and elementary, has eluded many current commentators, especially those from the neo-advaita perspective. From the perspective of the absolute (nondual) there are no levels or degrees of anything. Simultaneously and equally true is the perspective of the relative (dual), in which discrimination and progressive development are real and important. Ordinary ways of thinking and perceiving deny the truth of the absolute, which is without degrees and is unchanging-the birthless and deathless. Much current teaching on awakening only acknowledges the absolute while completely ignoring the equal value and importance of the relative. Of course the ultimate realization completely transcends the dual and the nondual while denying neither. This unfettered, fully embodied awareness moves freely in the world without concern for such matters. This freedom in motion knows neither before nor after, yet shows up for appointments on time."

   "Our concern here is with the denial of the relative once the absolute is realized. The enduring, experiential realization of the absolute is not the end of the path. In many ways, it is the beginning. This realization must be embodied and manifest in this body and mind in this time and in this place. The embodiment of nondual awareness can be seen as having three major components or aspects, representing the mind, the body, and the emotions. There could also be other major aspects, such as the energetic, but these three are our focus now. What does someone look like who has truly embodied this awareness fully? How do they act, talk, and think? We may have fixed ideas about how we believe they should act, but how do they, in fact?"

   "Even with a deep and enduring nondual realization, which is still quite rare, it is mistaken to assume that all psychological and biological problems disappear. Deeply realized beings do not become omniscient. Nor do they suddenly become skilled and knowledgeable psychologists who can ably assist with any personal problem. Yet, the questions asked of almost any teacher in any context are nearly exclusively psychological in nature. Why do we assume that a deeply realized spiritual teacher would be able to comment on profound personal problems in a helpful manner? A few years ago I attended two 5-day silent retreats with a well-known spiritual teacher for whom I have enormous respect. Virtually every single question asked was psychological in nature. The questions were about loss, addictions, codependency, grieving, anger, dysfunctional relationships with lovers, children, or parents, terror of intimacy, chronic physical or emotional pain, and so forth. I do not remember a single question about awakening or spiritual practice, but I assume there must have been a few. Doesn’t that seem somehow odd?"

   "While some conditioned and automatic programming may weaken or largely disappear in the flash of deep self-realization, plenty is left over. How do we understand and address these ‘leftover’ issues? It is true that many of these leftover issues may gradually dissipate somewhat over time through the normal processes of living. That is one reason why major spiritual traditions caution against purporting to teach or even discusses self-realization until it has been thoroughly embodied. This process is open-ended but can easily take 5-10 years or more for it to thoroughly marinate and stabilize in a given individual. It is understood that during this ‘deepening’ process an active effort is being made to see through remaining blocks that obstruct direct awareness from operating freely through the bodymind."

   While we agree with the gist of this encapsulation, we question the assumption behind the time frame given, or that in fact any kind of 'absolute' nondual realization is first attained prior to the integrating stages. This seems to be the logic behind the Buddha's four stage/life-model, where nondual realization, 'sahaj samadhi', and 'timelessness', is touched upon in each stage, and several lives, while one is yet within the realm of relativity. Thus, in this view true and complete nondual realization is quite rare.

   PB summarizes much of this line of consideration:

   "All classifications and systemizations of the mystical ascent are in a certain sense artificial and arbitrary. They exist to satisfy the intellect's requirements but by themselves they cannot satisfy the Oversell's requirements. Aspiration, faith, determination, sacrifice, or service may, if carried to extreme intensity, upset all such schemes and quickly win its Grace. The aspirant will pass through a succession of levels of spiritual awareness, each higher than the one before. Between the first step on the mystical path and the gaining of its glorious prize, an existence of ups and downs, of terrible darknesses and exhilarating enlightenments, of shameful weakness and satisfying endeavor, awaits him."

   "Owing to the presence of such unknown factors as Grace and emotional stability, a fixed period cannot be assigned for development and it is not possible to make correct, generalized statements about the time required for its various stages. This is entirely a matter of the individual's situation, character, and the developments he has brought over from former births. Also it would be wrong to suppose that during the ascent, these stages always and necessarily follow each other in the prescribed order. This would have to be the case if we were climbing a physical mountain like the Matterhorn or if we were mastering an intellectual profession like law. But here there is, first, an X-factor involved - Grace - and, second, delayed action tendencies or acquirements from former earth lives. Therefore, the different stages may sometimes exist side by side."

   'Levels' of sahaja

   It may seem heretical, but we might dare to talk of stages or degrees of 'sahaja'. What is meant by this? Simply (or not so simply): having established the state of nondual presence in one's inner consciousness is not the same as varying degrees of transforming the personality into an increasingly profound manifestation of the implications of nondual awakening. Sahaja of the essential type that Bhagavan Ramana or Sri Nisargadatta realized are certainly a more advanced realization than yogic internal nirvikalpa. Here there is no argument. But this can be 'integrated' into Relativity (intuitive, intellectual, philosophical, emotional, and physical - including lifestyle changes) more and more and more. In that regard, one may argue that no one has fully done this, as its implications are vast. Even PB said that he 'did not say that sahaj samadhi was the highest state possible, only that it was the highest possible as yet for man.'

   For instance, in the tantric perspective (this is not always the meaning that some associate with tantra, but it is essential to the Tibetan Buddhist understanding, and to many Hindu and other views), karma or samskaras is not simply some unfortunate 'stuff' that we have accumulated and must be gotten rid of, like an old gambling debt that simply needs to be paid off. Karma is the very stuff of our experience within relativity, and it manifests in different forms according to our level of enlightenment. Karma can be tamasic, rajasic or sattvic. We not only can create sattvic karma directly from more enlightened states, but we can transform tamasic and rajasic karma into sattvic energy. Sattvic karma/energy/elementals/traits are the positive, virtuous, and wise patterns through which our enlightened presence manifests within Relativity. So our difficult karma transforms into our enlightened realization and character and understanding.

   Part of what is powerful about the tantric view is that it is a more nondual, inclusive understanding of our human nature, our bodies, our desires, our egos, our karma and our suffering, all of which is transformed into our enlightened realization and manifestation. What distinguishes a planetary Buddha from an ordinary jivanmukta is how much experience, karma and suffering they have transformed into enlightenment. A Buddha has suffered and struggled more. [This is not to say that suffering is the only way to spiritual growth, only that it still appears rather inevitable on this planet as it is. But learning through joy by making wise choices will become more and more efficient. A Buddha has suffered, but also become wise. And the way to become wise other than through the school of hard knocks is to face one's emptiness and pain, through awareness, endurance, and even a certain amount of curiosity, while learning through life and practice the important lessons of acceptance, non-judgementalness, letting go of strong expectations, and daring to be open to the new and unknown - then he will not have to suffer to the point of despair before getting in touch with his soul again.]

   Likewise, Sankara - although most well known for his Advaita - was arguably a more fully rounded, integral nondualist in that he was also a rich tantric adept and bhakti. He was less like Ramana in that he was very worldly engaged, traveling and debating others, teaching, and establishing centers. While there is little doubt that Ramana was in a deep state of sahaja, one could argue that his outer personality was not an integral expression of that state. Something to think about.

   Another related perspective is given by Namkhai Norbu in Dzogchen: the Self Perfected State. He writes:

   "In Dzogchen, the way of behaving is the key to the practice, not because there are fixed rules as to what one should and should not do, but because the principle is that one must learn to become responsible for oneself, working with one's own awareness. It is important, in Dzogchen, to know exactly where one is aiming to arrive, but at the same time one must not ignore one's own capacity. If one discovers that one's own capacity is not sufficient to enable one to live with awareness, then it would be better to follow some rules until one's awareness is more developed. If, for example, I like to drink but I know that alcohol is bad for me, then I can simply try to stop drinking. But if, as soon as I see a bottle of alcohol, I experienced such a strong desire to drink that I can't control myself, this means that I need to a precise rule to follow to govern that situation. To recognize this is also part of our awareness. Dzogchen is said to be a teaching for those with a higher level of capacity. This higher capacity means that one has those qualities that are necessary to enable one to understand and apply the teaching."

   In our understanding this suggests three basic levels of both 'presence' and practice. The foundation is one in which we cultivate the ability to follow rules of right conduct, that support us in stopping creating negative karma and in cultivating positive karma. But it is also taught that if one is able to sustain a decent state of mindfulness, or awareness and presence in day-to-day life, so that one can directly perceive the karmic implications of various actions in one's own experience, then one can forgo following rules and rely on our own awareness and insight. Then we still make karmic-based discriminations and choices, but they are based in our own understanding rather than on external rules. Finally, for the few, if we are able to sustain the state of nondual presence throughout the day, then we can forgo even the cultivation of intuitive wisdom/discrimination. This last state is, of course, rarely achieved. Yet this state of nondual presence, or rigpa, does not mean that we cease to exercise discriminative wisdom, but rather that this expression of discriminating wisdom arises within us without our identification with it, and without being perceived as arising as an expression of our need to improve, fix, or change anything. Yet it still arises. So outwardly we might continue to be perceived by others as engaging in discriminating awareness and choice, and in a certain sense this is true, but to our inner state of realization we no longer perceive it that way. Naturally this is a very difficult state to fully integrate, because it cannot be sustained by the quieting or dismissing of the personality and it's relative awareness, discrimination, intentionality, and activity. It must be a state of nondual realization that is seamlessly integrated with the arising of all of these dimensions of human experience. Those that tend to find or assume sahaja samadhi by negation of these functions of human nature are revealing a lack of true understanding of what it is.

   A multidimensionality analogy

   A further way of expressing this is with an analogy in which our identity is that of a undivided spectrum of ego, personality, not-entirely-finite soul-nature (both individual and universal), and unindividuated impersonal infinite essence - all a seamless whole with no hard borders, and that we are ALL of it. Not only are all of these realities part of ‘a seamless whole’, but the nature of all of these aspects are thoroughly interdependent with each other, so when realized in a adequately nondual light, are known as part of a mutually defining totality where no part has any meaning or existence without all other facets – universality and individuality, spirit and matter, infinite and finite, temporal and eternal, personal and impersonal, manifested and unmanifest, etc. All of this arises within relativity, but when comprehended in the nondual view, are realized as a seamless and interdependent whole. The only reality that is not mutually interdependent with anything ‘other’ is the absolute, which is the radically transcendent true nature of all that arises within relativity. But relativity only appears to be a polar and complementary opposite to the absolute from the point of view of relativity. From the radically transcendental point of view, there is no relativity as somehow ‘other’, and relativity is realized as neither diminishing nor enhancing the absolute truth.

   Often overlooked and dismissed by the Buddhists due to misconceptions arising from the annatta doctrine, and by advaitins with their 'consciousness' and Self' doctrines, is a profound consideration of the eternal soul-nature. This aspect of our being is not going away any time soon, and is a reality in its own right that would be integrated in a deep nondual realization. But historical preconceptions frequently serve as a priori barriers to exploration of this dimension, leading to partial and limiting realizations. An emerging world spirituality must eventually unite the best in all existing traditions.

   More on the inevitability and necessity of graduated actualization

   anadi, in potent words, warns of the potential consequences of ‘sudden enlightenment’, if such were actually possible of being achieved, which fortunately it isn't, or if a teacher could somehow try to induce it:

   “As long as the science of enlightenment has existed there has been disagreement between different traditions as to whether self-realization is the outcome of a sudden awakening or a gradual process. There is no confusion though, if we are able to see this issue from a higher perspective. Awakening is always sudden, for it is a breakthrough in our experience of reality. Complete enlightenment, however, cannot happen suddenly - the chasm between ignorance and self-realization is simply too wide to cross in a single instant. A gigantic leap of this sort would defy the laws of nature, consciousness and energy.”

   “We need to understand that enlightenment is not a mere shift in perception and consciousness. It is an existential metamorphosis on all levels that radically transforms the frequency of our energy system and the delicate balance of our brain and subtle bodies. A sudden and complete enlightenment that bypassed all intermediate stages of awakening would undoubtedly result in a mental and emotional breakdown, or even physical death. The body and mind require time to adjust to the dramatic change in our energy and sense of identity that the radical transfiguration of enlightenment engenders.”

   And further:

   "The generally accepted models of sudden and gradual enlightenment are based on the false assumption that ignorance and enlightenment are strict opposites, having no intermediate reality. However, the matter is much more complex and fluid, for there are many transitional stages between forgetfulness and awakening. One can be more or less ignorant, just as one can be more or less awakened."

   "Awakening is sudden by nature, but rarely instantaneously complete. A post-awakening period of cultivation of the state that has been awakened is almost always necessary for the sake of its stabilization and integration. Only when a particular awakening has matured into relative completion can one then initiate the process that leads to the subsequent awakening. In this way, one journeys step by step towards becoming more whole and complete. The concept of gradual enlightenment is valid provided we accept that it is a gradual process composed of sudden awakenings. It is gradual in the sense that one's inner state progressively expands as one awakening follows another in tandem with the cultivation of the inner state as a whole."

   "Cultivation is both the polishing and perfecting of an already awakened state, and preparation for the awakening to follow. However, although necessary to assure the ensuing awakening, cultivation is never its complete cause. The correlation between cultivation and awakening is in fact extremely subtle: awakening is never the direct result of our effort, yet without our effort, no awakening can take place. Through cultivation we prepare our existence for the influence of the higher intelligence that alone can shift our consciousness to a more elevated state of light."

   "In the earthly dimension, it is most often a human guide who initiates the inner awakening of a seeker. This initiation takes the form of an energetic transmission of the states beyond the mind, and requires the medium of a self-realized being who embodies the awakened reality. To make himself as receptive as possible, the seeker has to prepare for the initiation through practice. He must bring his energy and consciousness as close as he can to the verge of the state that is to be awakened so that he can be reached by the transmission. A transmission of this type is not the simple transference of a state. It is the planting of a seed of higher consciousness that, in order to result in complete awakening, must be nurtured through cultivation into maturity. Whether realization happens spontaneously or through grace, the principles of sudden awakening and gradual cultivation apply."

   One need look no further than to the strange case of U.G. Krishnamurti for the powerful and dangerous forces that can be unleashed even in those relatively prepared. U.G. had been warned indirectly in his interchange with Ramana Maharshi some years previously, when he had asked the sage if he could give him this thing called realisation, to which Ramana enigmatically replied, “I can give it, but can you take it?” This remark sent U.G. reeling and in more desperate search for the truth. Apparently staying with Ramana wasn’t enough for him. But he describes what he went through spontaneously years later.The apparent collapse of the structure or identification with a separate self, over a period of changes, which culminated in a ‘withering away of the will,’ released great force into U.G.’s body. It seems like an odd kundalini-type of process catapulted him into a radical state:

   "It was a prelude to his ‘clinical death’ on his forty-ninth birthday, and the beginning of the most incredible bodily changes and experiences that would catapult him into a state that is difficult to understand within the framework of our hitherto known mystical or enlightenment traditions. His experiences were not the blissful or transcendental experiences most mystics speak of, but a ‘physical torture’ triggered by an explosion of energy in his body that eventually left him in what he calls the ‘natural state’."

   "For seven days, UG’s body underwent tremendous changes. The whole chemistry of the body, including the five senses, was transformed. His eyes stopped blinking; his skin turned soft; and when he rubbed any part of his body with his palm it produced a sort of ash. He developed a female breast on his left-hand side. His senses started functioning independently and at their peak of sensitivity. And the thymus gland which, according to doctors is active throughout childhood and then becomes dormant at puberty, was reactivated. All the thoughts of man from time immemorial, all experiences, whether good or bad, blissful or miserable, terrific or terrible, mystical or commonplace, experienced by humanity from primordial times (the whole ‘collective consciousness’) were flushed out of his system, and on the seventh day, he ‘died’ but only to be reborn in ‘undivided consciousness’. It was a terrific journey and a sudden great leap into the primordial state untouched by thought."

   Kundalini experiences occurred, and several times a day he experienced a shut-down of all bodily processes, in which the heart rate and body temperature decreased dramatically and his entire body would get stiff. Just when the shutdown would appear to be almost complete his system would “kick on” again until everything was functioning normally. [For more on U.G. please see The Two Krishnamurtis on this website].

   We are not saying here that it is necessary to manipulate pranas or kundalini awakening at all, certainly not in a willful way. That would give far too much credit to the ego. In fact we do not believe it is necessary (by the disciple and, in many cases, even by the guru), and few in this day and age are qualified for it anyway. There are many ways of having an energetic shift in more natural, even barely noticeable ways. And there are also different ways of interpreting kundalini. Some say it doesn't need to ascend through the sushumna nadi at all, as it is always ascending and descending. Kriya yoga says activate it starting from the bottom chakra, shabd yoga says avoid it by starting at the top, Sufi schools say activate the heart only, the 'King' chakra, and the rest will safely follow, while advaita says forget the whole thing, it is only imaginary! But some sort of preparation is deemed necessary in all schools to avoid both premature claims to enlightenment as well as certain dangers.

   The experience of U.G. appears in total contrast with what Wei Wu Wei maintained about awakening:

   "Nothing happens to anything, nothing is changed, there is no psycho-somatic event at all; mind is unaffected. It is just the recovery of clear vision. It has no objective existence: it is a purely subjective adjustment. It is not phenomenal: it has no direct body-mind impact. It is entirely noumenal: its existence is intemporal, and it does not manifest phenomenally. It is essentially impersonal - the impersonalisation of a pseudo-individual psyche. It is a looking in the right direction: it is a sudden understanding that there is no I subject to time." (20)

   The later is a standard non-dual confession. But there is also the energetic component. And further, who ‘recognises’ this ‘impersonal state'? The 'impersonal state' ? No. Then who or what? Might it be the soul in intimate interplay with Spirit? Whatever it be, it is quite subtle. And significant, no doubt. But what about the body-mind? It must also have its due, its part in the realisation. "Ah...there's the rub".

   In the Rig Veda IX.83 we read:

   "Wide spread out for thee is the sieve of thy purifying, O Master of the soul; becoming in the creature thou pervadest his members all through. He tastes not that delight who is unripe and whose body has not suffered in the heat of the fire; they alone are able to bear that and enjoy it who have been prepared by the flame."

   Commenting, Sri Aurobindo wrote:

   "But it is not every human system that can hold, sustain and enjoy the potent and often violent ecstasy of that divine delight. Ataptatanur na tad amo asnute, he who is raw and his body not heated does not taste or enjoy that; srtasa id vahantas tat smasata, only those who have been baked in the fire bear and entirely enjoy that. The wine of the divine Life poured into the system is a strong, overflooding and violent ecstasy; it cannot be held in the system unprepared for it by strong endurance of the utmost fires of life and suffering and experience. The raw earthen vessel not baked to consistency in the fire of the kiln cannot hold the Soma-wine; it breaks and spills the precious liquid. So the physical system of the man who drinks this strong wine of Ananda must by suffering and conquering all the torturing heats of life have been prepared for the secret and fiery heats of the Soma; otherwise his conscious being will not be able to hold it; it will spill and lose it as soon as or even before it is tasted or it will break down mentally and physically under the touch." (21)

   When people would ask Kirpal Singh if he would take them to higher planes of consciousness, he would reply, “If your son or daughter would ask for food, would you give them poison?” He told me, by personal letter, that before one expected any of that, he must first become ‘self’-conscious'. ‘Self-knowledge comes before God-knowledge’. ‘Know thyself,’ said the ancient Greeks. Kirpal said “when you know the ‘human’ in you, then you will know what is what and all will be like an open-book.”

   Raising ones rate of vibration too quickly by a higher plane entity has been compared to 'ripping apart what should only be stretched', in order to allow impurities to be released and greater resonance achieved. It is akin to inducing a healing crisis for which the being is not yet ready. PB similarly wrote:

   "The depth to be penetrated from the surface to the deepest layers of the human psyche is too great to be reached quickly without acute sacrifice and intense anguish."

   On becoming familiar with ones ego, Bob Ferguson wrote:

   "Only through the simple process of self-observation can this thing called the "self" be seen. We may need years of looking at it, seeing why it does what it does, thinks what it thinks, until we know it well enough to cease to believe in it. All of our energy, for all of our life, has been poured into this thing: our personality, the little self, the ego. A few moments of seeing, while of monumental importance, will not cause its complete demise. This demise is what we fear most; for it is seen by the thought-pattern we call "us" as death. At some point, the initial joy of seeing will turn to the pain of ego-death, as the Truth becomes known. It will not be pleasant. In fact, the pain and horror felt by the ego as it faces its own death, will be felt as yours." (22)

   It must be said that it need not happen like this - but, then again, it might. It is entirely an individual matter, depending on many antecedent causes, attitudes, and expectations. It may be a gradual, graceful process. In some cases the great fear is a product of premature catapulting into an awakening one is not able to assimilate. For death is not something one 'does', or that just 'happens' to one, but that which one allows. And, in general, in passage like this, although in a fundamental sense one must go through it alone, a sacred relationship with a spiritual friend(s) is a great help. For after the 'death' comes the rebirth, and one is reborn as a babe, not fully grown. One then needs to grows up. The process is always perfect, while not entirely predictable or linear. There are ebbs and flows, starts and stops, apparent retrogression followed by an advance. Ultimately, your death and you are one, and it happens outside of linear time, while apparently being a product of stages. But the latter is only from the ego's perspective.

   It also needs to be said that the above quote may give the impression that the ego is all 'bad' or a mistake. We have expressed how we feel this is an error. Ego is a functional part of the being's intelligence, which connects consciousness with material reality, and as part of the incarnate, bodily personality, not merely to be negated but rather integrated if Oneness is really true. But what about 'no self', some may say? We see no contradiction or incompatibility between a healthy, expansive ego and a realization of 'no-self'. Again, there are no hard boundaries. And besides, if we might offer a koan, what is the 'self' of 'no-self'? And what is its relationship to the body?

   Further notes on understanding and the enlightenment of the intelligence

   Enlightenment, then, has time and again been said to be a multiplex affair, with many dimensions and mysteries to be revealed to the one who co-operates with the help of grace. And it also is said to require or becomes the ‘enlightenment’ of the intelligence as well. As Sankara said, ”when the buddhi gets enlightened, one realises the Self.” What an interesting phrase, ‘The buddhi gets enlightened.’

   anadi states:

    “Not only does understanding bring us to our inner realizations, it saturates them with pure knowing. When intelligence merges with realization, understanding actually embodies the significance of that which has been realized.” (23)

   “Apart from enlightenment to the inner states there is the whole process of enlightenment of intelligence. Enlightenment of intelligence is as important as enlightenment to the inner states, because it is recognising intelligence which gives meaning to any state. Enlightenment of intelligence is even more difficult than enlightenment to the inner states. It takes many lifetimes of evolution for the intelligence to grow so it can comprehend the subtleties of reality, both the inner and outer.” (24)

   Anthony used to say, "Is understanding nothing?"

   But this is not merely a matter of being smart or becoming a spiritual genius! Anadi also reminds us:

   "We should not forget that often awakening is brought by the power of Grace. In many traditions, students are supported from the esoteric dimension. That's why, even when one is doing the practice without having the full understanding but one is sincere and genuine, transformation simply does take place. Grace is even higher than our understanding and practice. Grace is the ultimate source of Awakening."

   And see "Those Amazing Christians" on this site for the story of Father John of Kronstadt and his childhood prayer to God for intelligence!

   Another look at the Dzogchen perspective

   A review of various schools of Buddhism will give an appreciation for the depths of what they consider true spiritual evolution. These paths are more directed to jnana, intellect, and knowledge than the many bhakti paths, which, however, always remain valid options, and despite their apparent simplicity have have their own inherent 'complexities' or perhaps, better said, 'intricacies' as well. For if you meet a Satguru, whose roots are imbedded in Sat, a strange alchemy occurs. You become meditated on, then gradually discover what happened. There are secrets upon secrets in such a path, so secret they defy the telling, even to oneself. One begins to dissolve, as one does on a true path of knowledge, but with an assurance not of the mind but of the heart. Finally, the ‘sadhana’ becomes one not so much of doing but of simply believing in the unfolding miracle.

   We may assuredly not be Buddhists or monks, for the most part, but let's take another brief look at Dzogchen. What follows may be enough to drive one to drink. In Dzogchen, rigpa is universally defined as 'nonconceptual, non-dual realization', 'naked awareness', 'non-dual presence', 'child luminosity', 'the state of presence', and other names. Namkhai Norbu is considered to be one of the leading contemporary Dzogchen masters as well as a great scholar. He said that, after achieving the preliminaries, it then took him twenty years after first having rigpa pointed out to him by his master to stabilize it in daily life. The Dalai Lama considers him one of his principle Dzogchen teachers and has taken time off to do retreats with him. Norbu's definitions of rigpa are consistently of a state of pure, effortless, non-dual realization, untainted by conceptual understanding:

   "In Dzogchen contemplation, free from the defects of sleepiness, agitation and distraction, both the moments of calm that occur between one thought and another, and the movements of thoughts themselves are integrated into the nondual presence of Enlightened awareness. The term rigpa (the opposite of ma-rigpa - the fundamental delusion of dualistic mind) indicates the pure presence of this inherently self-liberating awareness, in which thought is neither rejected nor followed. If one cannot find this pure presence or ripga, one will never find Dzogchen: to find Dzogchen one must bring forth the naked state of rigpa." (25)

   True Dzogchen practice, then, begins with direct realization of rigpa. If one has not yet developed the ability to gain regular access to rigpa, then one is technically not doing Dzogchen, for Dzogchen is the set of practices in various Tibetan traditions which commences with the capacity to enter the state of rigpa consistently in meditation (not trance) and stabilize non-dual contemplation. Dzogchen thus proceeds through several phases. First are preliminary practices that lead up to Dzogchen practice, then 'Final Introduction' in which the master initiates the student into, not only a realization of rigpa, but a final introduction because now the student can access the state of non-dual presence in meditation any time they sit, then the stage of deepening the depth of this realization in meditation (with many stages and practices to faciliate accelerating the integration of non-dual realization with their relative nature), then the state of stabilizing non-dual realization during daily activity (sahaja samadhi), then the stage of so completely integrating non-dual realization into the physical body that the elements that make up the body are resolved into their light essences and are liberated from dense manifestation, resulting in the Great Transfer or Rainbow Body (of which there are different versions dependent on the level of realization of the practitioner). This final realization is not just a yogic power but is an expression of an advanced stage of actualizing non-dual realization that also has a lasting impact on the practitioner as it accomplishes a profound level of absorption of the relative levels of human nature into the inner beingness or soul of the practitioner so that their soul realization/actualization is enhanced.

   Dzogchen masters, like others, have used 'samadhi or satori-generating power' to awaken students to rigpa. In fact, it is the common practice in Dzogchen to attempt full or final introduction upon the first meeting with the student, and only if they fail to get it or be able to sustain it are other practices employed to prepare them for when they can. Historically, there have been people who have immediately attained sahaja realization upon direct introduction at the first meeting, but it is rare. This is usually not due to a limitation of the master, but of a lack of readiness of the student. Ramana talked of regularly transmitting non-dual realization directly to people who would come to visit, and that most people did not 'get it'. Paramahansa Yogananda talked of desperately wanting to be granted permanent samadhi access, but Sri Yukteswar being unwilling. When he ran off to the Himalayas to seek out Ram Gopal to grant him this favor, he was told that his master knew what he was doing and would initiate him when he was ready, but that he was not ready yet, in essence that his body would be 'fried' by it. Do most contemporary teachers have the capacity to remove people's karmic obstructions and prepare their character (man-building) and foundational wisdom for non-dual transmissions that Ramana and Yukteswar and hundreds of generations of Dzogchen masters lacked? That sounds pretty implausible.

   One can see, however, how Norbu, who was one of the first to teach Dzogchen publically, while cautioned not to by his 'higher ups', was finally given the green light by them with their 'agreement' that "you may as well teach this otherwise no one will show up" ! Who wants to come to a dry lecture on sitting practice? To be fair, this also shows a hunger for direct teachings by more and more people. Whether they can access them authentically of course remains an individual matter.

   True Dzogchen means non-dual stages in which there is no sense of movement anywhere (ascending, descending), nor is there any experience of anything that one encounters that is realized as anything other than Ground Luminosity: Deities, Heart, Soul, Virtue, Bodhicitta, Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya, elements, thoughts, desires - all are realized as non-dual manifestations or 'ornaments' of one's own primordial nature.

   Dzogchen practice is in two stages, Trechko and Togal. Trechko is about 'cutting through' into non-dual presence (rigpa), then stabilizing rigpa. This is realization of Dharmakaya. Then Togal practices 'encourage' spontaneous manifestation of Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya actualizations integrated with non-dual presence, so that the state of non-dual presence is maximally realized through soul and bodies. This includes the state of dimension of Deity realization. All is contained in non-dual presence.

   Although there are many stages in this tradition beyond that point, even the first stage of access to rigpa is obviously not very common! It is considered the ultimate in many other paths. That is why in the Nyingma tradition Dzogchen is considered the most advanced teaching which culiminates eight previous stages of tantric practice.

   I hate to argue for my own limitations and bondage, but that there are stages to be 'attained' even while the One is what It is has generally been recognized in most genuine schools. There is a process. All of the traditional teachings that work with the now very popular 'free and open' awareness, however, are very cognizant of its prerequisites and have complex strategies for preparing students to practice it in such a way so as to remain balanced and alert. The threefold foundation of practice the Buddha taught is somewhat sequential - sila (morality), samadhi (various concentration, trance, and purification practices) and prajna (wisdom developed through vipassana). In the West, practitioners here generally developed their approach to various forms of Buddhism backwards - typically becoming enamored of the higher practices such as Dzogchen, while ignoring or tying to skip over the traditional order of approach as taught by the Buddha and others. Such an approach may or may not work. We are now in the midst of a great experiment.

   The power of 'free and open' awareness is that it is a particularly suitable practice for opening to nondual realization, for when awareness is balanced with equanimity, concentration and investigation (as is the method of vipassana), and all levels of experience from physical to psychological to spiritual, are allowed to arise without preference, this openness is actualizing nondualism in its aspect of not preferring one object of awareness to another, one plane to another, etc. The danger of trance states is that they express an inherent preference for higher and higher planes, allowing for the danger of attachment to these planes. Vipassana-like practice is an antidote to this.

   Mahamudra is a pinnacle practice in some Tibetan teachings, just as Dzogchen is in others (particularly Nyingmapa and Kagyu). In all these traditions, an open focus meditation that integrates nondual awareness with all other levels of experience, including activity in daily life, is the final practice (if not employed in some form at other stages). In all Tibetan lineages Mahamudra or Dzogchen is always preceded by various tantric practices (such as the Six Yogas of Naropa, which is basically a form of kundalini yoga), or Deity Yoga (also a tantric practice as used in Vajrayana), as well as various preliminary practices such as Ngondro (refuge, mantra, mandala, and guru-yoga). So at the heart of all major Buddhist lineages is a practice that the Buddha taught originally as vipassana, and later was spun in various ways as zazen, shikan-taza, Mahamudra, or Dzogchen, all of which have at the essence to be fully present with all that is arising moment to moment, and the cultivation of non-attachment to any technique, plane, or viewpoint, which leads to realizing sahaja samadhi or what the Buddha called 'nirvana with elements', meaning the experience of nondual realization/liberation while fully aware of the relative level of experience.

   [Is it any wonder that people flock to simple teachers of non-duality? This old stuff can really be a pain!]

   A brief plug for traditional schools

   One potential problem with some of the western nondual teachers these days is that they criticize the ancient traditions by suggesting that what they themselves do is better, faster, deeper. And what is sometimes - but not always - found is that they are poorly informed about the traditions they critique, and that they offer something less than they claim. An interesting thing about complex systems like Dzogchen, Tibetan Buddhism, non-dual Hindu tantric traditions, Taoist systems and so on, lies in the claim univerally made against them that simpler systems have the advantage of...er... being simple. But the disadvantage is that the same practice (or 'no-practice') is often given to each person regardless of stage or personality. Subsequently, such 'paths' may be simple, but they may also be less efficient, because they do not offer the power of prescribing the ideal practice to each person given individual differences. So the traditional systems as a whole are often more complex, but actually may be more efficient in bringing awakening. But it requires having a qualified teacher to embody the complexity so the student does not have to. Like a doctor with access to a large understanding and set of treatments, they know how to prescribe the one simple medicine at the right time for each patient (ideally!). But where and how to confidently find such teachers?

   A simplification of all this

   I'll be frank here: I'm glad I'm not a Buddhist! This complexity is a hard pill to swallow, and enough to drive one to liberating despair. Yet, it is an argument that will not easily go away, although it may be forgotten. There is simply 'preparation of the ground', and then 'enlightenment to the Ground'. So as not to leave us in the lurch, however, let’s see if we can translate the practices of these more or less renunciate paths into one for householders, and in somewhat more modern language. This is basic material, found in many sources. We are just summarizing what many have presented before. PB lays out most of it for us in his Notebooks, looking at the matter from many possible angles. We can call the most common practice ‘karma yoga’, because that (the field of action) is where most of us spend our day. Therefore we can rest our worry over fulfilling the eight jhanas, the ten perfections, the ashtang yoga, the mystical tour, at least for the moment! The essential spiritual achievement is the eradication of egoism. Not how high one can fly. And this is an ordeal, let us not kid ourselves. PB writes:

   “He will advance most on the Quest who tries to separate himself from his ego. It will be a long, slow struggle and a hard one, for the false belief that the ego is his true self grips him with hypnotic intensity. All the strength of all his being must be brought to this struggle to remove error and to establish truth, for it is an error not merely of the intellect alone but also of the emotions and of the will...No one else can do for a man what Nature is tutoring him to do for himself, that is, to surrender the ego to the higher self. Without such surrender no man can attain the consciousness of the higher self. It is useless to look to a master to make for him this tremendous change-over within himself. No master could do it. The proper way and the only way is to give up that pathetic clinging to his own power, to his own littleness, and to his own limitations. To turn so completely against himself demands from a man an extreme emotional effort of the rarest kind and also of the most painful kind. For to surrender the ego is to crucify it...The self-crucifixion of the ego is the terminal of a long line of self-humblings, the culmination of years spent in gradually withdrawing from its thralldom.” (25a)

   Quantum Spirituality: Back to the Future

   Before breaking the quest down into a few practical themes, we could not resist offering some thoughts on what could be called a "quantum spirituality." This is a taste of what is to be discussed in another essay entitled, It's All Too Much For Me To Take. Just as we have come to change our Newtonian linear, mechanistic world view to one of the paradoxes and uncertainties of a sub-atomic world and beyond, so, too, may we come to re-envision spirituality in similar ways. We speak now of the recognition of an eternal pulsation of reality wherein there may be a non-static context and essence as eternally dynamic as its content, with paradoxically simultaneous and instantaneous yet unending creations, of multiple universes, as well as simultaneous, multiple personalities or 'reincarnational selves' in the same time or different dimensional time tracks, aligned with the same soul or conscious 'entity' within the greater whole. We speak of linear yet also non-linear but connected incarnations, in which our notion of karma and rebirth is turned upside down, and attitudes of recompense, guilt, or punishment are changed forever. Difficult to conceive? No doubt, but if it is easy to see ourselves as a static physical personality, and only somewhat more difficult to conceive of our identity as a universal, impersonal essence, why should it be impossible to also consider a reality where our self is composed of multiple parts, all somehow linked together? We speak also of simultaneous linear and non-linear reincarnations of worlds and solar systems as well, of the exploration and expansion of being in both vertical and horizontal dimensions, and in all of this immensity our identity mysteriously recognizable throughout, and nothing truly lost in our total self. This form of teaching speaks not even of a 'one-time' prodigality or fall of the soul, only for it to return to its origin forever in a self-conscious way, or simply re-awaken to itself, for no other purpose than 'God's' lila, but of an infinite creativity of the Ground of Being itself, in which personalities, essences, souls, divine sparks, and even the whole endlessly evolves and expands - within itself. In this paradoxical understanding, the true timeless, multidimensional you is, in essence, 'God', not one of his lost sheep, and who do not therefore need to develop, but who freely choose to let experience in out of a deep knowing of the great value in experiencing duality:

   "All That Is simultaneously and unendingly creates itself. Only within your particular frame of reference does there seem to be a contradiction between action that is simultaneous and yet unending. This has to do mainly with the necessary distortions arising from your time concept and the idea of duration; for duration to you presupposes existence continued within a time framework - predisposing to beginnings and endings.

   "Experience existing outside of that reference is not dependent upon duration in your terms. There is no "perfect ending," no completed perfection beyond which further experience is impossible or meaningless...All That Is is a source of infinite and unending simultaneous action. Everything happens at once, and yet there is no beginning and end to it in your terms, so it is not completed in your terms at any given point."

   PB wrote that the 'World-Mind' can create many universes. This was an early indication of the quantum point of view. One might even say 'infinite' possible universes. Another aspect of a quantum view is that of the uncertainty principle, or how the very act of perception alters the perceived. In this context an incarnating consciousness 'entering' the world of form (which, as a body for instance, is already sustained by a complex cooperation of its molecules and cells, each of which itself has consciousness, thus there is already 'body-consciousness' before and after a soul or greater 'conscious entity' inhabits such a form) in that very act 'alters' the reality of time and space in which it emerges. This may have implications for the predictability of system such as astrology, for instance. It certainly speaks reams about human creativity, free will, and the like.

   Our most fundamental identity is the 'One', the 'Tao', intuitively knowable as love from any plane, 'high' or 'low' (meant as in frequency, not hierarchical ranking), even as such knowledge deepens as we evolve through them as well as through other dimensions or world systems with similar planes of existence. Simultaneously we also both partly are and are not our personalities and/or reincarnational selves, which themselves both do and do not get reabsorbed into our higher essence between lifetimes. They are said to become part of our essence, our entity, 'our' spark of the One, yes, but also continuing their own destiny and expansion, and paradoxically adding to the whole, from within the whole! The human mind is simply inadequate to get itself around such concepts. All of this is difficult to imagine and even talk about constrained as we are to human limits of space/time. The being named Seth, progenitor of the new Age and said to be a causal plane entity or soul-grouping ['causal' defined as the third of seven dimensional planes, and the highest plane of yet semi-personal existence - yet, it must be remembered, still a limited and not the highest form of being and therefore subject to error, so do not believe this without discrimination!] speaks of inner personalities or 'soul' fragmants united by affinity as one 'essence' or group consciousness - with at the same time a paradoxically increasingly greater degree of individuation, albeit an individuality unlike anything we know of now - themselves in turn united as one 'entity' or Oversoul, each of which in turn unites as a spark of All That Is, call it by any name, transcendant and immanent to all the planes of the dimensional worlds, with all of these 'parts' knowable to themselves, and to Itself, as Itself, yet all also distinct within the totality with their own unique signatures. In short, our identity as we know it forever blown and more unimaginable than one ever dreamed of. Even so it is remains intimately connected with our own heart, and not something in which one is lost in a mere mystical or mental wilderness.

   Further, the 'One' didn't extend a spark into dimensionality, nor did the essence and/or soul project itself into incarnational cycles of personal experience merely for everything and everyone to 'rush back to where it began' - all stages have purpose and meaning unto themselves. Thus there is reason to relax and not fear. One is where he is meant to be, and where he has chosen to be. Once one has completed his destiny on earth or the physical plane - not reached any sort of 'perfection', but completion - no force in the universe can hold him there, and he will cycle vibrationally if not actually to another sphere where fear, pain, anxiety, and time - as we know it - are no more, for these are mostly related to the physical dimension, as it currently is. We say, as it currently is, for it has been maintained that the earth itself has 'fallen' to a denser vibration than it was meant to be - yes, as it was meant to be, for there are 'mistakes' or 'accidents', as everything is not predestined - itself but a concept of the mind - otherwise there would be no creativity possible. Remember 'Providence' and 'Necessity'? - both must be allowed as polarities in the One. And it has also been said that the earth is midway in its cycle of growth, in what is a fairly young universe, and that its vibration will rise in coming centuries such that there will be a greater ease of access between dimensions or planes, from both above-down and below-upwards, and that this, in spite of all the hyperbole and obfuscation, is what is meant by the talk of a New Age. Even so, it is but a blip in time within the immensity under consideration.

   Something of all this may in fact be what PB had in mind when, speaking of his own 'researches', he prophecied years ago (perhaps prematurely, as it is axiomatic that nothing is certain in this universe until it actually happens):

   "A jealously guarded hidden teaching far more advanced and complicated than the present one will be revealed by its custodians before this century closes. But when this does occur, the revelation will only extend and not displace the foundation for it which is given in these pages." (27)

   He also said:

   "We must look for eternity in the present moment now, and not in some far off afterlife. We must seek for infinity here, in this place, and not in a psychic world beyond the physical body."


   "We need always remember that all this experience which a human undergoes is relative to time and place and must pass away. To what? To that higher order of the universe where we are with God as higher creatures." (28)

   Thus, "no eye has seen, and no ear has heard," as the scripture proclaims. The possibilities we are invited to explore and know as ourselves are unlimited. And such knowing is coincident with the realization that life is like a dream and that we, as we know ourself, are as nothing. This is in fact accepted as the price of admission. But only in part, as this is not a game, but reality in which we each have a rightful stake and are inseparable at any time from All That Is. So it has been said. We conclude this short interlude with the admission that it may indeed sound like too much imaginary hype for sophisticated tastes, but as Marty McFly once said, “I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet…but your kids are gonna love it."

   Okay, back to earth!

   The theme proposed for discussion was the simplification of all of this. So first, let’s talk about presence. Our state of presence can be seen as having several basic levels. The deepest level, of course, is our nondual presence. ‘Advanced’ karma yoga integrates the nondual state of presence with daily activity. Most of us are not yet able, however, to consistently access and maintain this level of presence which is within us all. So we need to practice at the level that we can access . The foundational level of spiritual presence that is accessible to all of us, although it still usually needs long practice to deeply develop, is the presence of discriminating wisdom and virtue. This (development of ‘basic’ intelligence) is what takes the longest to mature, and is the closest indicator of one’s spiritual evolution, regardless of the level of jhana or samadhi one is capable of. Upon the foundation of basic awareness and discrimination, we can cultivate other qualities such as peacefulness, concentration, equanimity, love, generosity, and wisdom. All these qualities make up what might be called the soul level of the state of presence, which is a level of growing intuitive wisdom and spiritual qualities.

   This aspect of our nature, although not yet fully nondual or liberated, is the expression of the accumulated fruits of development over numerous lifetimes. It is the distillation of character and spiritual realization that eventually can be both awareness of our transcendental nature while at the same time being present to our relative existence. This aspect of our nature dwells beyond identification not only with our bodies, but also beyond our emotions and thoughts. It is a level of soul or spiritual intuition and being.

   In our modern 'karma yoga', as well as in meditation practice, we seek to manifest our spiritual nature or state of presence in the dimension of thoughts, motivations and actions. This means to cultivate the qualities of presence such as awareness, love, equanimity and peace in the context of our human nature. Eventually, through adequately cultivating this state of presence, we will begin to transcend identification even with these vast and uplifting qualities, and enter into communion and identification with the universal presence - whether experienced as God or nondual Reality.

   The essence of spiritual awakening lies in the remembrance of our natural, unconditioned state. Spiritual awakening happens every time we remember to come back to ourselves, to recollect ourselves and thereby move closer to the universal Self which is our underlying nature. The direct realization of transcendent reality is not immediately accessible to most of us as a luminous apparent truth. But we can move closer to this state through innumerable keys or tools - methods that bridge to this reality. Remembering to use these tools is a key feature and at the heart of spiritual awakening.

   Recapping, the realization of nondual presence is the state of liberated presence beyond not only limiting identification with body, emotion and mind, but also beyond even intuition and spiritual qualities as well. It is a level of our being that rests in the direct realization of our absolute nature, even while living within this world. The realization of this primordial state of nondual presence manifests as various qualities. These qualities or virtues are a kind of secondary light emanating from and revealing the deeper state of nondual presence. Spiritual practice is the science and art of cultivating these qualities so that we are gradually purified and transformed into a state of direct realization and expression of our nondual nature. These qualities of presence are the bridge to transcendent realization. All spiritual traditions emphasize cultivating aspects of this 'qualified' state of presence as the means of coming to full enlightenment. It may not be necessary, as some teachers insist, but it is only nicer. Yet most schools say it is necessary.

   In short, each moment of cultivating a little more patience, understanding, detachment, awareness and other qualities is a moment of awakening - a moment of moving closer to a remembrance of our true nature. They are the tip of the iceberg of our superconscious Self. Every act of remembering to return to the moment, to let go of anxieties and regrets, to be content with life as it is, is a step into our deeper nature. This is a powerful, uncomplicated, and basic form of practice. It is in this sense that out of compassion the Venerable Dilgo Rinpche in Dzogchen in Everyday Life tells us that just 'sitting' or just 'being' is enlightenment. Of course, it is and it isn't. In our opinion, he is both making it easy for us who live complicated lives, and also for whom the whole course of Dzogchen may not be our current destiny.

   So we can say that there are two primary levels of spiritual presence - the Atman or transcendent Self that rests fully in nondual awareness, and the level of presence as 'quality' or virtue - being love, peace and wisdom. This second level of presence is a bridge to the former.

   Equanimity and presence

   The quality of awareness is central and intrinsic to the state of presence. We cannot remember to practice patience, or determination or peace without engaging the quality of awakening - or realizing that we wish to intentionally cultivate these qualities. So awareness and intentionality are fundamental qualities of spiritual development. That is why they are given so much attention in the spiritual literature. The quality of wakefulness or 'being present' is so central and powerful that this quality alone can be used as the primary key to our transformation. Buddhism in particular leans in this direction. As do many of the newer teachers. The Sanskrit term buddhi means, among other things, awakened awareness. Buddhism works with a wide range of virtues, but clearly mindfulness and 'awareness' are foremost.

   Equanimity, in turn, is a fundamental key to awakening. It is the characteristic of not needing things to be different than they are. It is a state of non-judgment (evaluating as good or bad, better or worse) in which we are no longer seeking a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment from something, someone or some event that is perceived to be outside of ourselves. Equanimity is a state of perceptual and motivational balance, wherein we neither seek to grasp or to avoid anything. The Zen master Seng Ts-an called it to "cease cherishing views." It means that we perceive all that arises in our experience with equal evaluation, rather than accessing some things as more and others as less. It is 'equality-consciousness' elevated to it deepest implications.

   Equanimity is profoundly liberating because spiritual liberation means no longer being conditioned by the experience of a relative universe - some aspects of which we like and others we do not like. Equanimity releases us from the burden of judgment and desire so that we may discover our true nature, which has been hidden from view by our preoccupation, our agenda, our 'story', with 'what is out there'. As long as we are involved in judgment and desire, we are perceiving ourselves as separate beings that are dependent for our happiness and satisfaction on what is happening around us (not only physically but in the psychological world of our thoughts and emotions as well). And as long as we feel we are separate (and hence judge and desire), we will feel a basic sense of lack and will inevitably suffer, in spite of periods of temporary fulfillment. Equanimity releases us. It is one very penetrating way of identifying the quality of transcending our dependence on 'external' conditions for our happiness. It is ultimately synonymous, therefore, with Self-realization or God-consciousness and profound and unconditional peace, contentment and bliss. Of course, it may require significant purification or 'purgation' of one's being before equanimity becomes a stable virtue.

   In summary, in our daily lives, the cultivation of mindfulness and equanimity during activity are key elements in the practice of 'karma yoga'. We need to remember again and again to awaken in each moment, to be aware and have equanimity. This process has extensive implications on a moment to moment level, because there are so many little and larger ways in which we are entangled with our agendas, our evaluations and critiques, our small attachments, desires, aversions and preferences. The process of steadily and gradually awakening, of replacing these tendencies with a contented equanimity is a profound and subtle process. Each moment is an opportunity for deepening. Love, humility, peace, concentration, contentment and all the other spiritual qualities we may wish to cultivate are dependent on the development of awareness and equanimity. It is a maturing process and in that sense not a ‘one-shot’. Hence the appeal of self-enquiry or the 'awareness watching awareness ' methods, in the hopes of bypassing all of this, too.

   Yet alas, there are times (or lifetimes perhaps) where even this may seem too much! Then our only recourse is prapatti, or unconditional surrender, remembering we are in good hands.

   PB said:

   “You could also say there is nothing to the whole thing: simply surrender yourself to God. This is true if you can do it.” (29)

   We of the increasingly 'old guard' see the younger generation coming up, wishing (along with us) for something simple. How to attract them to study such teachings in depth, or keep pioneering communities going, in an age of instant sound-bytes, lack of reading, and a time in which the concept of 'spiritual discipline', 'spiritual paths', or 'spiritual adepts' are losing their luster, and in which there is a lack of charismatic, quality teachers to draw them in? Perhaps the worry is groundless, they will do just fine, and everything is unfolding as it should. After all, God is still in charge, isn't she?

   Concluding words of the wise

   The temptation, however, is strong to just throw it all away and rely on words of people like Ramana, which appear much more accessible, especially for those of us who are not monks, concerned with dharma, 24/ 7. We are in deep need for this advice, to sooth the troubled heart:

   "We try to grasp something strange and mysterious because we believe happiness lies elsewhere. This is the mistake. The Self is all-pervading. Our real nature is liberation, but we imagine that we are bound, we make  strenuous efforts to become free, although all the while we are free. Birth and death pertain only to the body, they are superimposed upon the Self, giving rise to the delusion that birth and death relate to the Self. The  universe exists within the Self. Discover the undying Self and be immortal and happy. Be yourself and nothing more. Thoughts change but not you. There is neither past nor future; there is only the present. Yesterday was the present when you experienced it; tomorrow will also be the present when you experience it, therefore, experience takes place only in the present, and even the present is mere imagination, for the sense of time  is purely mental. All that is required to realize the Self is to be still. What can be easier than that? [or harder!] Your true nature is that of infinite spirit."

     "The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realization for want of a better term. That which is, is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet. Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it."

   That, it might be said, is the whole of the spiritual path: "just don't spoil it." As such, it's easy - and it's not. Until, of course, it is...

   "Meet your own self. Be with your own self, listen to it, obey it, cherish it, keep it in mind ceaselessly. You need no other guide. As long as your urge for truth affects your daily life, all is well with you. Live your ...life without hurting anybody. Harmlessness is a most powerful form of Yoga and it will take you speedily to your goal. This is what I call nisarga yoga, the Natural yoga. It is the art of living in peace and harmony, in friendliness and love. The fruit of it is happiness, uncaused and endless." (31) - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

   “Those who look for advancement by looking for inner experiences or for discoveries of new truth do well. But they need to understand that all this is still personal, still something that concerns the ego even if it be the highest and best part of the ego. Their greatest advance will be made when they cease holding the wish to make any advance at all, cease this continual looking at themselves, and instead come to a quiet rest in the simple fact that God is, until they live in this fact alone. That will transfer their attention from self to Overself and keep them seeing its presence in everyone's life and its action in every event. The more they succeed in holding to this insight, the less will they ever be troubled or afraid or perplexed again; the more they recognize and rest in the divine character, the less will they be feverishly concerned about their own spiritual future.” (32) - PB

   Therefore, when it feels overwhelming, know that it is simple. 'Call off the war', befriend the body, rest in Being. And when it feels simple, know that there is almost always more to realize of the mystery, and also, that there is help for it. Above all, says PB, "don't hold any doctrine too tightly":

   "There is much that we must let stand as inexplicable, must accept as a mystery, and thus avoid falling into the trap of smooth intellectual theories...The days when he could speak glibly and assuredly on the most recondite phases of spirituality gradually go. A new humility comes to him." (33)

   He also writes:

   "When we comprehend what it is that must go into the making of a sage, how many and how diverse the experiences through which he has passed in former incarnations, we realize that such a man's wisdom is part of his bloodstream." (The Notebooks, Vol. 16)

   For a world example, we might look to the life of Pablo Cassals. He played for Queen Victoria at age 22, and President Kennedy at age 86. He lived to age 96, while still practicing three hours a day. When asked why he did this, he replied, "I'm beginning to notice some improvement."

   PB summarizes:

   "Those who believe in the Short Path of sudden attainment...confuse the first flash of insight which unsettles everything so gloriously with the last flash of insight which settles everything even more gloriously...He has to move from one point of view to a higher, from many a struggle with weaknesses to their mastery. Then only, when he has done by himself what he should do, may he cease his efforts, be still, and await the influx of Grace."

   Or, as Anthony said, it is not a 'one-shot.'

   Thank you.


1. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), various volumes, references misplaced, and Vol. 15, Part 1, 2.98; Part 2, 6.20; Vol. 13, Part 2, 3.416, 4.83, 4.86; Vol. 14, 7.282-283
1a. Jean Pierre deCaussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence (Exeter, England: The Catholic Records Press), p. 259
1b. Aziz Kristof (Anadi)Transmission of Awakening (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), p. 41
2. Ibid, p. 98
3. blog post
4. Peter Haskel, Bankei Zen (New York, N.Y.: Grove Press, 1984), p. 113
5. Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 13, 5.12, 24, 13, 17, 19, 20
5b. Paul Brunton, Essays on the Quest (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1985), p. 124-125
5c. Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part One, 2.109
6. anadi, book of enlightenment (www.anaditeaching.org., 2011), p. 90
6a. Edward Salim Michael, The Law of Attention (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2010), p. 22-234
7. Brunton, op. cit., 5.100
8. Ibid, Vol. 15, Part 1, 3.22-24, 3.58, 3.59
8a. Michael, op. cit., p. 136
9. Brunton, op. cit., 2.1
10. Ibid, 4.7
11. Ibid, 4.8
12. Ibid, 4.35
13. Ibid, Vol. .16, Part 1, 2.251
14. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I AM THAT (Durham, North Carolina: The Acorn Press, 2009), p. 436
15. E.A. Burtt, ed, The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha (New York: Mentor, 1955), p. 205-206
16. Jose Ignacio Cabezon, trans., A Dose of Emptiness: An Annotated Translation of the sTong thun chen mo of mKhas grub dge legs dpal bzang (Shakti Nagar, India: Sri Satguru Publications, 1993), p. 24, 96-96, 112-113, 400
17. Garma C.C. Chang, The Practise of Zen (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1959 (1970), p. 162-163
17a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 3, Part 1, 2:101
18. anadi, op. cit, p. 94-95
19. Mukunda Rao, A Life Sketch of U.G. Krishnamurti, Body, Mind, And Soul — do they exist?, The Enigma of the Natural State, Anti-teaching: Calling It like It Is, Laughing with UG (internet post)
20. Wei Wu Wei, Ask the Awakened, 2002, p. 174-175
21. Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda (Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1956, 1998), p. 351, 356
22. Bob Ferguson, TAT, from "Why We Don't Get It?
23. anadi, op. cit., p. 209
24. Aziz Kristof (Anadi)Transmission of Awakening (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), p. 131
25. source misplaced)
(25a) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 6, Part One, 4.198, 211, 221)
26. Jane Roberts, Seth Speaks (San Rafael, CA/New York: Amber-Allen Publishing/New World Library, 1972/1994), p. 300
27. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 13, Part 2, 64
28. Ibid, Vol. 13, Part 1, 4.216, 1.55
29. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part 1, 5.88
30. David Godman, ed., Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi)
31. Sri Nisargadatta, op.cit., p.
32. Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part 1, 5.222
33. Ibid, Vol. 12, Part 2, 3.46, 3.68, 3.58