Category Archives: Vimala Thakar

The Challenge of Emptiness – Vimala Thakar

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Vimala Thakar on the Spiritual Emancipation of Women
an interview by Shanti Adams

Shanti Adams: This morning I would like to talk with you about women in relationship to spiritual liberation.
In the course of the last ten years I have been part of a community of men and women who are students of spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen. We have been trying to live, together in a mixed community, what we have learned through being with him and through practicing and studying his teaching. Initially, the people who joined this community did not attach any particular importance to being either male or female. Speaking for myself, I was never drawn to women’s movements. I was just interested in the truth. I’m not a feminist and I’m not an antifeminist either. I have no doubt that real freedom transcends nationality, transcends religious bias and also transcends gender.

At first there didn’t seem to be any particular differences in our community between male and female conditioning when it came to spiritual practice or liberation. But over time, deep differences between male and female conditioning seem to have emerged. And this doesn’t seem to be just an individual matter; each sex as a group seems to have its own distinct conditioning.

Let me give you an example. Really trying to live these teachings requires an ability to observe one’s conditioning, habits, and tendencies clearly—or objectively—and to actually transcend them or be free of them. One thing that is beginning to emerge is that women often have difficulty with that kind of objectivity. For example, when a tendency or habit is revealed, women often take it more personally and in some cases will initially be defensive. They tend to feel hurt and they seem to have more difficulty than the men not being distracted by their emotional response to what has been seen. The men don’t seem to get quite so distracted by their fear or their pride, and they seem to be more interested in just looking objectively at whatever it is that they may be facing. This tendency to take things personally, and therefore to defend themselves, seems to be something that the women in particular are coming up against.

Vimala Thakar: The objectification of the inner psychological life is extremely difficult for women.

Woman has had a role to play in human history. She has been the wife, the mother, the sister, protected by others, especially by men. In India the Hindu religion says woman is always to be protected—in childhood by the father, in young age by the husband, and in old age by her son. It is said that she does not deserve freedom. That is the basic principle. And I feel that perhaps in other countries also she has had only one role to play. It is a secondary role, protected by the male, and she did not require objectivity. As a subjective person she always has to react. Man has to act, man has to earn; she has to take care. In this secondary role, she never lived for herself as a human being. She lived for the parents, for the husband, for the children, for the family. The family institution has survived at the cost of woman. So the inner freedom of objectifying her own emotions or perceiving the situation entirely objectively is very difficult for women, very difficult. And man finds it easy, objectification. But it is very difficult for men to transcend their egos. Woman, through emotional strength and emotional integrity can go beyond the ego easier than man. Man can objectify more quickly and easier than woman.

There are certain limitations because of the role that man and woman have played in human history and civilization. The woman immediately withdraws into her own shell to protect her emotions, her reactions, everything.

SA: Yes, I recognize that.

VT: In India women have been prescribed the yoga of devotion, bhakti yoga. In identifying with a god, a goddess, an idol, or a guru, all the emotional strength and vitality is consumed so it doesn’t trouble her in other human relationships. But that is not so all over the world. And in many places man and woman live together, which rarely happens in India. Even in ashrams in India men and women live separately. They come together only for prayers and for meditation in the presence of the teacher. But visiting each others’ rooms and discussing things together—the kind of thing that takes place in other countries—has not yet come to India. So in India they may not have the problem you describe.

In your situation, men and women are on an equal footing. They are trying to understand the teachings and live together. So they will have to go through their different conditionings, conditionings that are not consciously adopted, but are inherited.

It is so true, you are so correct when you say that women withdraw into psychological isolation very easily. They feel that they can protect their feelings, their observations, that way. And that’s a defect because that withdrawal, that retiring or retreating into their shell, prevents them from assimilating the essence of the teachings. They have to accept the world, they have to accept whatever happens in their interactions and be there.

SA: Yes, exactly.

VT: They will have to face attachment also. Without the context of the family, with men and women living together, the biological phenomena of attraction and repulsion are there. You cannot ignore or deny it. So that attraction or repulsion gets expressed in relationship. Like-minded people have come together, and their quest is the same, but after all they are human animals. The animality is there, the instinctive part is still there. It has to be transcended through meditation, but that duality is there. So woman and man have to go through this phenomenon of understanding the attraction, recognizing the attraction or the repulsion, even infatuation, and not accept it but go beyond it. Unless you recognize it you can’t go beyond it. So without feeling guilty, without making a fuss about it, without calling it a sin or a crime, one has to see it as it is.

SA: Precisely, yes. That’s very clear, and that, I think, is the challenge to women who are really serious.

VT: To both.

SA: To both, exactly. That is the challenge, yes. It’s interesting, Vimalaji, what you’re saying about something inherited just by virtue of being, as you said, protected. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. In the West, although this is changing, there is still the fundamental fact that women are the weaker sex. And there’s always this fear of exploitation and so on. I wonder whether an inability to trust, in the biggest sense of the word, has come from this. By trust I mean here a very fundamental trust in life, an ability to actually let go in order to be able to see things clearly for what they are, and not instinctively to defend.

VT: Shanti, besides the inheritance part, the psychological inheritance part, look at the biological factor. In the sexual relationship woman receives and man asserts. This cannot change, this biological factor in the sex life that leaves its imprint on the psychology. The residue of sexual relationship builds up the male psychology and the female psychology, unless one educates oneself in transcending the sex consciousness and the “I” consciousness, the ego, which go together. As long as the “I” consciousness is at the center you cannot escape the sex consciousness, the duality. That duality cannot be negated. It cannot be rejected, it cannot be ignored, it is there.

So besides the psychology of being protected, the receptive role of the woman has also been a handicap to her, and she has to go beyond it. And man has to go beyond that assertive psychology. What is true in the physical and the biological he extends to the psychological realm. There is a kind of assertiveness and domination without being conscious of it. It’s in the blood. So we have to go beyond the biological and the psychological facts and only then will living the nonduality that is the substance of truth become possible. This is a challenge for modern men and women who are exploring together, unlike in India where it is done separately. Doing it while living together requires much more fearlessness.

SA: Yes, that’s true.

VT: I congratulate those who go through these challenges. It is a challenge. There is no precedent for this. Nobody has an answer for it or a remedy. You have no prescriptions, norms, or criteria in any religion for the challenges you are asking about. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism have no answer because they have not faced it this way. There has been segregation. And now there is the segregation that comes about through the feminist movement. So when you say you are neither feminist nor antifeminist I feel very happy.

All the truths have not been verbalized. The last word in spirituality has not yet been said. Truth is infinite and there is hope for humanity because the human potential is inexhaustible. People will find remedies to these challenges, ways to meet these challenges.

SA: What you’re saying about it is very helpful, Vimalaji.

VT: I have seen the difficulties of women in the West, in Europe, in America and in Australia. I have met them. And they do not understand the harsh biological realities, the roles that they have had to play, the scars and scratches and the residue of memory that were left behind, which inhibit the psychology. They have to be conscious of it, recognize it and go beyond it.

SA: Yes, that seems to be the answer, becoming conscious of it. The recognition of it has to precede going beyond it. I think that’s why we are trying to open this up. Because we are beginning to see that there are limitations here that seem very deep, almost instinctive. They need to be penetrated in order for us to go further.

VT: Perception of bondage is the beginning of freedom.

SA: I’m very thrilled to meet you, Vimalaji, because it seems to me that there are very few women teachers like yourself who are teaching real liberation in the world. I haven’t met many. I’ve met more men, such as Krishnamurti and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. It seems that most of the women figures who are leaders in the arena of spirituality are kind of Divine Mother figures, and that’s very different. They’re apparently teaching unconditional love through the expression of who they are, in a sense. But there does not seem to be a real teaching of liberation there. So it’s very inspiring for me to meet someone like yourself who has actually transcended the conditioning that we are speaking about. It seems to me to be unusual.

VT: My dear, it is unusual because, for example in India, Hinduism says woman can never be liberated in a woman’s body. If she behaves, if she follows bhakti yoga, then she may be born again in a male body and then she will be liberated. Buddhists and Jains also never accept that a woman in a woman’s body can be emancipated. Nor do the Catholics accept it. So at best a woman becomes a mother figure, such as Anandamayi Ma, or this figure or that figure. And she teaches as the Mother, not as an emancipated person.

Shall I tell you something? I was visiting Los Angeles in 1968 and I was staying at Ramakrishna Mission. I was asked to give a talk to the inmates of the ashram but they said, “You cannot speak in the chapel because you are a woman. Only sannyasins [monks] can speak there, and a woman cannot be a sannyasin.” The Swamiji there was Swami Prabhavananda, who was a very powerful swami. He wrote books along with Christopher Isherwood on the Bhagavad Gita, and commentaries on the Gita. He knew J. Krishnamurti, and so on. He was a very fine person. I said to him, “Swamiji, excuse me. Will you please remove the photographs of Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna’s wife, from the chapel?” There were two photographs there. So I said, “Since you tell me that I cannot give an address in this chapel, I will not give an address. But, will you please remove those photographs?”

Even in Ramakrishna Mission there is a differentiation. So who will stand up against all this and assert the humanness concealed in woman’s body, the divinity concealed in woman’s body, and demand equality on that level—not just on the physical and psychological levels?

So it is unusual. But let us be thankful that it has happened here.

SA: Yes.

VT: It is something in the orbit of human consciousness. Whether it happens there or here is immaterial. But it can happen.

This person has been hurt in many ways by the ancient Hindu authorities. When I wanted to study the Vedas, the Brahma Sutras, in Varanasi, I went with folded hands to the authorities on the Vedas and they said, “No, a woman should not study the Vedas. What have you to do with the Vedas and the Brahma Sutras?” they said. “No, we won’t teach you.” “Alright,” I said, “I will study by myself.”

For a woman to be unconditionally and totally emancipated is something unacceptable at least to the Indian consciousness, and maybe to the non-Indian consciousness also. This differentiation has to go. There is differentiation that has to do with the body, with different kinds of limitations. But that doesn’t mean that woman is not entitled to liberation.

I am so glad that you are talking about this and that you are looking at the issue in this way. This challenge has to be met. Not aggressively—you don’t have to fight for it, you have to work for it.

SA: Yes, I feel that very strongly because I’ve experienced within myself the very conditioning that we are talking about. And I can see that unless I can recognize this very deeply within myself I cannot transcend it. So I feel this is very important. I feel that it’s up to women individually to meet the challenge of being a woman and all the conditioning, as you were saying, that is biological, hereditary, psychological and so on. I think that’s what you mean by working for it, earning it.

VT: Have you discussed these matters with your teacher?

SA: Very much so. He’s incredibly observant and very passionately interested in each person’s liberation. And initially he had no concept of any differences between the conditioning of men and women. But then over time he was actually the first person to recognize in his female students what he called female pride.

VT: Oh yes, oh yes!

SA: So he was the first person to really get us to start looking at that ourselves. He’s very interested in this, and he’s also very concerned that his female students really meet this challenge. Because some of them are not interested. There is quite a lot of denial still going on among some of his students. But in others there is the recognition that there is something that we need to meet, to understand, to penetrate, in order to be free. There is an awakening to the fact that, as women, to really be able to live what we understand we need to come to terms with this. He’s encouraging all of us individually to really have the fire and the fearlessness and the humility to actually recognize this and to take it on.

VT: How nice.

SA: We were speaking earlier about women seeming to have a bit more difficulty than men being objective and impersonal. When things about themselves are pointed out to them, they often take it personally and defend themselves at first, taking time to come around to accepting what has been revealed, and then overcoming or transcending it. There sometimes seems to be an almost innate visceral response of defending, of protecting, of surviving and maintaining that operates in women. The reason I am saying this is because while I know that men have tendencies they have to face—male traits such as selfishness, aggression and even cowardice have been revealed in our investigation—the men do seem to be able to more easily accept the impersonality of their condition. They do not seem so proud or defensive about these negative tendencies. I was wondering whether underneath their defensiveness women have a deeper fear of nonexistence, a deeper existential insecurity or fear of emptiness, than men.

VT: Nothingness, nobodyness, emptiness—even the intellectual understanding of this frightens women. It frightens women! At the depth of our being there is fear because of our physical vulnerability, because of our secondary role in human civilization. It is in the subconscious, not in the consciousness. On a subconscious level there is fear. If I get converted into or if I mature into nonduality, into nothingness, into nobodyness, what will happen to my physical existence? Will it be more vulnerable? Will I be able to defend myself in case of difficulty, in case of some attack against me? That is a basic fear among women.

So women very rarely take to meditation. They take to devotion, to bhakti yoga. They can take to service, seva yoga or karma yoga. But not meditation, dhyana, samadhi. Consciously, intellectually they understand everything, because regarding the brilliance of the brain there is no distinction such as male and female. But psychologically, at the core of their being is this fear. And that fear has to be dispelled. Woman has to understand that nobodyness or nothingness, the emptiness of consciousness in samadhi or meditation, generates a different kind of energy and awareness which is more protective than self-conscious defensiveness. When woman appreciates that, when she understands that, then this fear will be dispelled. Otherwise it is very natural for a woman to feel frightened even by the idea of nothingness.

SA: It’s amazing, Vimalaji. Everything you say rings perfectly true to our experience. The areas women excel in are exactly what you have said—in service they are very strong, they give everything to help and to support. Physically and emotionally they are very, very giving. They will give everything and work very hard, very selflessly. So it’s very interesting what you say about women being naturally inclined to devotion and to service because that is exactly what is happening in our community. And yet on the other hand, as we have been saying, to really engage with meditation in the truest sense, to really let go into being nobody—many women are unwilling to do that.

VT: There is a subconscious resistance.

SA: Yes, exactly.

VT: They don’t find any resistance on the conscious level. They will say, “No, we do not resist,” and they are being honest. And yet at the deeper level of their being there is an unverbalized resistance.

SA: Exactly. That is exactly what is happening.

VT: That has to be perceived. That has to be recognized. Perhaps if the women recognized the resistance at the subconscious level, it might disappear, it might dissolve.

SA: Yes, that seems to be the only possibility. And I think some of us are just beginning to recognize that. I know, for myself, for many years my teacher pointed this out, and I said no. Because consciously I accepted and was thrilled by the idea of being nobody, by the concept of freedom that that means. But now I’m beginning to see that subconsciously there is a resistance which needs to be completely met in order to be truly free.

VT: To allow the divinity or the absolute truth to use your body, your brain, your mind for the service of humanity is one thing. “I want to serve and I get pleasure out of that service. I’m serving so and so, the cause or the individual.” There is pleasure in that. But to let go of that pleasure and allow the truth to shape your life, to mold it, to give it a direction and to use it for the cosmic purpose, requires tremendous fearlessness. And very few are willing to let go of the last noble pleasure for that.

It’s a noble pleasure to serve. You’re offering service and you’re offering your life and here is someone who says, “No. Not that, not the conscious service, the ‘I’ doing the service. No, not the ‘I’ devoting itself. You are again creating a different field for the survival of limitations. Let it go.” Then the resistance comes, the inhibitions come. Women begin to suffer. They don’t like it if you point it out, even on a conscious level. They hear it, but they don’t receive it. It doesn’t go in because of the subconscious resistance.

SA: Yes, that’s absolutely true.

VT: Oh, yes. One has seen it happening. One has seen it happen in people around you. The emptiness, the nobodyness, as you have rightly put it—that frightens them. Me doing the service, me giving, me working; that is O.K. Yes, we are dealing with the crux of the issue here. Hitting the nail on the head. Such merciless perception of truth, merciless analysis of the subjective world, is very rare to come across. People find it unbearable. Even the verbalization is unbearable to some.

SA: Yes, definitely.

VT: One has to go very slow. That during our first visit we could do that together is an exceptional occurrence. So I have to congratulate your teacher.

SA: Thank you.

VT: Thank you for raising these questions. You are the first person in the last ten years to raise these questions. Non-Indians come to me from at least twenty countries here. Women come from many different nations and discuss with me the problems of women in modern Western culture, but not the question you have raised this morning. It is from a very deep level that this question has come. I’m glad about it.

SA: Thank you. It’s been a fabulous opportunity to explore this together.

VT: For both of us to share. Life is fulfilled in sharing. Not only meals and clothes and money, but when you share your flesh and blood then there is a rare fulfillment.

It takes two to have a conversation, a dialogue. One person can’t do it.

Shanti Adams is a student of Andrew Cohen living in London, England. Her previous contribution to What Is Enlightenment?, “The Long and Winding Road” [July 1994], describes her many years as a spiritual seeker in India.

The entire article/interview can be found at:   http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j10/vimala_challenge.asp?page=1

I find it necessary to publish links to three postings on the What Enlightenment? blog that relates to this interview. Apparently Andrew Cohen used Vimala Thakar’s words to justify the mistreatment of the female members of his community and this was subsequently strongly condemned by Vimalaji. Below you can follow the links and read for yourself.

http://whatenlightenment.blogspot.com/2006/02/vimala-thakars-concealed-criticism-and.html

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

To read more of Vimala Thakar see:  http://o-meditation.com/jai-guru-deva/some-good-books/downloadable-books/vimala-thakar/

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Awakening to Total Revolution – Vimala Thakar

Enlightenment and the World Crisis

Awakening to Total Revolution

In a time when the survival of the human race is in question, to continue with the status quo is to cooperate with insanity, to contribute to chaos. When darkness engulfs the spirit of the people, it is urgent for concerned people to awaken, to rise to revolution.

The cleverness of the human mind has led us to the complex, horrifying, and all-encompassing crisis that we now face. The familiar solutions, based on a limited view of what a human being is, continue to fail, to be pathetically inadequate. Yet we pour vast resources into these tired solutions and feel that if we achieve a grand enough scale, the old solutions will meet the new challenges. Do we have the courage to see failures as failures and leave them to the past? Do we have the vitality to go beyond narrow, one-sided views of human life and to open ourselves to totality and wholeness? The call of the hour is to move beyond the fragmentary, to awaken to total revolution.

The call is not to one of the revolutionary formulas of the past; they have failed—why drag them out again even in new regalia? The challenge now is to create an entirely new, vital revolution that takes the whole of life into its sphere. We have never dared embrace the whole of life in all its awesome beauty; we’ve been content to perpetuate fragments, invent corners where we feel conceptually secure and emotionally safe. We could have our safe little nooks and niches were it not for the terrible mess we have made by attempting to break the cosmic wholeness into bite-size bits. It’s an ugly chaos we have created, and we try to remedy the complicated situation with the most superficial of patched-together cures.

Today, with the scars of our past failures marring our existence and the fears of the future weighing heavily on our spirits, we can no longer go on with this dangerous game of fragmentation. We can no longer escape the fact that we are all bonded, equal in wholeness. Science and technology have brought each of us into intimate relationship with all others. We are truly a global human family. Yet as a family, we have not learned how to live together in peace, to live without violence and exploitation. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell wrote: “Man knows how to fly in the air like a bird, he knows how to swim in water like the fish, but how to live among other human beings, he does not know.”

Penetrating to the Roots of Conflict

Even though our very survival is in question, we tend to look at the crisis superficially, emotionally, sentimentally. We have tried in subtle ways to absolve ourselves of any deep responsibility for the condition of the human family. We perceive ourselves, or our small identity groups, as truly sincere and peace-loving, and we ascribe to outsiders, to those apart, to power-hungry villains, responsibility for aggression and wars.

Yet as members of societies that are prepared for war, how can we set ourselves apart as peace-loving and the others as violent? This is, however, what we attempt to do. We see on the television or hear on the radio news about massacres and wars taking place in different countries, and we feel how stupid it is to wage war and wonder why the politicians and the statesmen don’t have the wisdom to stop all this nonsense. This is the reaction perhaps of every sensitive citizen of the world. But who wages war? Where are the roots of war? Are they in the minds of a handful of individuals ruling over their respective countries? Or are the roots of war in the systems that we have created and have been living by for centuries—the economic, the political, the administrative, the industrial systems? If we are not romantic and sentimental, and do not feel gratified just by reacting emotionally, by expressing how bad the wars are, but rather go deep, won’t we find the roots of war in the systems and structures that we have accepted?

We will discover that there are systems and structures that inevitably lead to aggression, exploitation, and war. We have accepted aggression as a way of living. We create and entrench ourselves in structures which culminate in wars. Retaining the structures and avoiding wars is not possible. You and I as individuals have to realize how we are responsible, how we cooperate with the systems and thereby participate in the violence and wars. And then we must begin to inquire whether we can discontinue cooperating with the systems, whether we can stop participating in wars, and explore alternative ways of living for ourselves.

We must go to the roots of the problem, to the core of the human psyche, recognizing that collective social action begins with action in individual life. We cannot separate the individual and the society. We each contain the society when we accept the value structure of society, when we accept the priorities worked out for us by governments and the states and the political parties. We are expressions of the collective, repeating the pattern created for us, and we feel happy because we are given physical security, economic security, comfort, leisure, entertainment. We have been trained to be obsessed with the idea of security; the idea of tomorrow haunts us much more than the responsibility for today.

Going Beyond Fragmentation

If there is a willingness to face these unpleasant facts, and be with these facts, then we can proceed. If we enter into self-pity and depression, then negativity may lead to cynicism and bitterness against others and bitterness against the system. And releasing such negative energy does not help solve the problems. We have to stick with the facts as they are. Whether we like it or not, we are responsible participants in what is happening in the world.

If we sanction violence in our hearts, we are going to cooperate with whomever is waging war. We are participants because psychologically we sanction violence. If we really want to put an end to warfare, we need to explore deep into the human psyche where the roots of violence have a stronghold. Unless we find the roots of violence, ambition, and jealousy, we will not find our way out of chaos. Failure to eliminate their roots will doom us to endless miserable repetitions of the failures of the past. We must see that the inner and the outer are delicately intertwined in a totality and that we cannot deal with the one successfully without the other. The structures and systems condition the inner consciousness, and the conditionings of the consciousness create the structures and systems. We cannot carve out one part of the relationship, make it bright and beautiful, and ignore the rest. The forces of human societal conditionings are powerfully entrenched; they will not be ignored.

Traditionally, there have been two separate approaches. One approach takes us toward the social, the economic, the political problems, and says, “Look here, unless the economic and political problems are solved, there will be no happiness and no peace, there will be no end to suffering. It is the responsibility of every individual to engage in solving these problems according to some ideology. Turning toward the inner life, the imbalances and impurities of the inner life, that is not so important, that can be taken care of later on, for it is a self-centered, egoistic activity. But the responsibility is toward the society, toward the human race, so keep aside all those problems of meditation and silence, inner sophistication, transformation for inner revolution—keep all that aside. First turn toward this.” And the other approach says, “The political and economic problems cannot be solved unless the individual is transformed totally. Be concerned with your psychological mutation, the inner, radical revolution. The political, the economic, the social problems can wait.”

People have generally followed one or the other of these two conventional approaches: religious groups concerned with inner growth and inner revolution, and social activist groups concerned with social service. Traditionally we have created boundaries, and exploration beyond our home territories has been only superficial. The social activists have staked out their territory, the outer life—the socioeconomic, political structures—and the spiritual people have staked out theirs—the inner world of higher dimensions of consciousness, transcendental experiences, and meditation. The two groups, throughout history, have been contemptuous of each other. The social activists consider the spiritual inquirers to be self-indulgent, and the inquirers consider the activists to be caught in a race of activity, denying the essence of living. Traditional spiritual leaders have divided life into worldly and spiritual, and have insisted that the world is illusion. They said, “This world is maya, is an illusion. So whatever action you take should be in relation to the absolute truth and not in relation to maya.” Thus a religious person sitting in meditation for ten hours a day need not mind the tyranny or the exploitation or the cruelties surrounding him. He would say, “That’s not my responsibility. It’s God’s responsibility. God has created the world. He or She will take care of it.”

There have been superficial blendings, as spiritual groups take up social service work and social activists join religious organizations, but a real integration of social action and spirituality at a deep, innovative level has not yet happened to any significant degree. The history of human development has been fragmentary, and the majority of people have been content with the fragmentation. It has the sanction of society. Each fragment of society has its own set of values. Among many social activists, anger, hatred, violence, bitterness, and cynicism are accepted norms, even though the effectiveness of these motivations for peaceful living has been seriously put in doubt. And indifference to the needs of the poor has had shocking acceptance among generations of spiritual people who considered higher states of consciousness much more significant than the misery of the starving millions.

A new challenge awaits us at the beginning of the twenty-first century: to go beyond fragmentation, to go beyond the incompatible sets of values held even by serious-minded people, to mature beyond the self-righteousness of one’s accepted approaches and be open to total living and total revolution. In this era, to become a spiritual inquirer without social consciousness is a luxury that we can ill afford, and to be a social activist without a scientific understanding of the inner workings of the mind is the worst folly. Neither approach in isolation has had any significant success. There is no question now that an inquirer will have to make an effort to be socially conscious or that an activist will have to be persuaded of the moral crisis in the human psyche, the significance of being attentive to the inner life. The challenge awaiting us is to go much deeper as human beings, to abandon superficial prejudices and preferences, to expand understanding to a global scale, integrating the totality of living, and to become aware of the wholeness of which we are a manifestation.

As we deepen in understanding, the arbitrary divisions between inner and outer disappear. The essence of life, the beauty and grandeur of life, is its wholeness. Life in reality cannot be divided into the inner and the outer, the individual and social. We may make arbitrary divisions for the convenience of collective life, for analysis, but essentially any division between inner and outer has no reality, no meaning.

We have accepted the watertight compartments of society, the fragmentation of living as factual and necessary. We live in relationship to these fragments and accept the internalized divisions—the various roles we play, the contradictory value systems, the opposing motives and priorities—as reality. We are at odds with ourselves internally; we believe that the inner is fundamentally different from the outer, that what is me is quite separate from the not-me, that divisions among people and nations are necessary, and yet we wonder why there are tensions, conflicts, wars in the world. The conflicts begin with minds that believe in fragmentation and are ignorant of wholeness.

A holistic approach is a recognition of the homogeneity and wholeness of life. Life is not fragmented; it is not divided. It cannot be divided into spiritual and material, individual and collective. We cannot create compartments in life—political, economic, social, environmental. Whatever we do or don’t do affects and touches the wholeness, the homogeneity. We are forever organically related to wholeness. We are wholeness, and we move in wholeness. The awareness of oneness refuses to recognize separateness. So the holistic approach de-recognizes all the fragmentation in the name of religion or spirituality, all the compartmentalization in the name of social sciences, all the division in the name of politics, all the separation in the name of ideologies. When we understand the truth, we won’t cling to the false. As soon as we recognize the false as the false, we no longer give any value to it. We de-recognize it in daily living. A psychic and psychological de-recognition of all manner of fragmentation is the beginning of positive social action.

When awareness of the totality, of wholeness, dawns upon the heart, and there is awareness of the relationship of every being to every other, then there is no longer any possibility of taking an exclusive approach to a fragment and getting stuck there. As soon as there is awareness of wholeness, every moment becomes sacred, every movement is sacred. The sense of oneness is no longer an intellectual connection. We will in all our actions be whole, total, natural, without effort. Every action or nonaction will have the perfume of wholeness.

Inner Freedom Is a Social Responsibility

Viewing the world as a large pieced-together collection of fragments, some of which are labeled as friend and others as foe, begins internally. We map out our internal territories with the same positive or negative designations as we do external territories, and wars go on there as they do in the world. Internally, we are divided against ourselves; the emotions want one thing, the intellect another, the impulses of the body yet another, and a conflict takes place which is no different in quality, although it is in scale, from that of the world wars. If we are not related to ourselves in wholeness, is it any surprise that we cannot perceive the wholeness of the world? If we believe ourselves each to be a patched-together, unmatched assortment of desirable and undesirable features, motives at odds with each other, undigested beliefs and prejudices, fears, and insecurities, will we not project all this on the world?

Because the source of human conflict, social injustice, and exploitation is in the human psyche, we must begin there to transform society. We investigate the mind, the human psyche, not as an end in itself, as a self-centered activity, but as an act of compassion for the whole human race. We must move deep to the source of decay in society so that the new structures and social systems we design will have a sufficiently healthy root system that they will have an opportunity to flourish. The structures of society need to be transformed, but the hidden motivations and assumptions on which the structures rest need to be transformed as well. The individual and collective values and motives that give sanction to the injustice and exploitation of modern society must become the focus of change as much as the socioeconomic and political structures. We no longer will be able to allow the motivations and values that underlie personal and collective behavior to remain hidden and unexamined. It serves no lasting purpose for us to change the surface structures and behaviors while the deep foundations remain decadent and unsound.

Those of us who have dedicated our lives to social action have considered our personal morality and ethics, our motives and habits, to be private territory. We not only want our personal motivations and habits cut off from public view, but from our own recognition as well. But in truth, the inner life is not a private or personal thing; it’s very much a social issue. The mind is a result of collective human effort. There is not your mind and my mind; it’s a human mind. It’s a collective human mind, organized and standardized through centuries. The values, the norms, the criteria are patterns of behavior organized by collective groups. There is nothing personal or private about them. We may close the doors to our rooms and feel that nobody knows our thoughts, but what we do in so-called privacy affects the life around us. If we spend our days victimized by negative energies and negative thoughts, if we yield to depression, melancholia, and bitterness, these energies pollute the atmosphere. Where then is privacy? We need to learn, as a social responsibility, to look at the mind as something that has been created collectively and to recognize that our individual expressions are expressions of the human mind.

Inner freedom from the past, from the thought structure, from the organized, standardized collective mind, is absolutely necessary if we are to meet one another without mistrust or distrust, without fear, to look at each other spontaneously, to listen to one another without any inhibition whatsoever. The study of mind and the exploration of inner freedom is not something utopian, is not something self-centered, but it is urgently necessary so that we as human beings can transcend the barriers that regimentation of thought has created between us. Then we will perceive ourselves, each as an unlabeled human being; not an Indian, an American, a capitalist, or a communist—but as a human being, a miniature wholeness. We have not yet learned to do that. We are together on this small planet, and yet we cannot live together. Physically we are near one another, and psychologically we are miles apart. Clearly the social responsibility for arriving at inner freedom is a very relevant issue. We study the mind because we want the harmony of peace to prevail, because we need the joy of love in our hearts, because we care about the quality of life our children will inherit. We do not undertake such study because we want something new and esoteric for the ego, some transcendental experiences to enhance our self-image. We study the mind as a social responsibility; we recognize that the roots of violence, injustice, exploitation, and greed are in the human psyche, and we turn our clear, precise, objective attention there.

We are related organically, and we have to live that relationship. To be attentive to the dynamics of the inner being is not creating a network of escapes to avoid responsibility. It is not continuing a false superiority that I am sensitive and you are not. It is simply recognizing that our personal relationships and collective relationships are miserable affairs, and that these relationships stimulate fear and anxieties and throw us on the defensive. However much we yearn for peace, emotionally we are not mature enough for peace, and our immaturity affects everything we do, every action we take, even the most worthy of actions.

The elimination of inner disorder takes place in the lives of those who are interested in being truly creative, vital, and passionate whole human beings, and who recognize that inner anarchy and chaos drains energy and manifests in shabby, shoddy behavior in society. To be attentive requires tremendous love of living. It is not for those who choose to drift through life or for those who feel that charitable acts in society justify ugly inward ways of being. The total revolution we are examining is not for the timid or the self-righteous. It is for those who love truth more than pretense. It is for those who sincerely, humbly want to find a way out of this mess that we, each one of us, have created out of indifference, carelessness, and lack of moral courage.

The Choice Is Ours

Most of us are not aware of our motivations for living or our priorities for action. We drift with the tides of societal fashions, floating in and out of social concerns at the whim of societal dictates and on the basis of images created by the media or superficial, personal desires to be helpful, useful persons. We are used to living at the surface, afraid of the depths, and therefore our actions and concerns about humanity are shallow, fragile vessels easily damaged. Ultimately most of us are concerned chiefly with our small lives, our collection of sensual pleasures, our personal salvation, and our anxiety about sickness and death, rather than the misery created by collective indifference and callousness.

We have reached the point, however, where we no longer have the luxury to indulge in self-centered comfort and personal acquisition or to escape into religious pursuits at the cost of collective interests. For us there can be no escape, no withdrawal, no private arena in which we can turn our backs on the sorrows of humanity, saying, “I am not responsible. Others have created a mess; let them mend it.” The writing on the world’s wall is plain: “Learn to live together or in separateness you die!” The choice is ours.

The world today forces us to accept, at least intellectually, our oneness, our interrelatedness. And more and more people are awakening to the urgency of arresting the accelerating madness around us. As yet, however, our ways of responding are superficial, unequal to the complexities of the challenge. We do not take or even consider actions that threaten our security or alter our habitual ways of drifting through life. If we continue to live carelessly, indifferently, emphasizing private gain and personal indulgence, we are essentially opting for the suicide of humanity.

We can become involved in many acts of social service, according to our resources, without ever moving one inch from the center of our private interests; in fact, the very act of social service typically enhances self-image and self-centeredness. But we cannot become involved in true social action, which strikes at the roots of problems in the society and in the human psyche, without moving away from ego-centered motivation. We must look deep into the network of personal motivations and discover what our priorities are. Our yearning for peace must be so urgent that we are willing to free ourselves from the immaturity of ego-centered action, willing to grow into the sane maturity required to face the complex challenges that affect our existence. If we are motivated by desire for acceptance either by the dominant culture or the counterculture, clarity of right action and passion of precise purpose will not be there. We may be praised for our contributions, but unless there is a deep awareness of the essence of our lives, a penetrating clarity about the meaning of human existence, our contributions will not penetrate to the roots of human misery.

To be ready for social responsibility, we will have to be mercilessly honest with ourselves. Wherever we are, we are responsible to resist injustice, to be willing to put our comforts, securities, our lives at stake in fearless noncooperation with injustice and exploitation. If we adopt all the habit patterns of the enslaved—the fear, the acceptance of tyranny, the intellectual and emotional blindness to injustice—we deserve the inevitable consequences that are descending upon us in a dark storm cloud. If we are submissive, clinging to our small islands of security, naturally terror will reign. If we are willing to allow all others to perish—the peoples of other countries, races, castes, cultures, religions; the other creatures of the earth—so that we may flourish and endlessly increase our network of pleasures and comforts, obviously we are doomed to rot and decay. The callousness of letting others be abused so that our petty little lives will be undisturbed, so that all the comforts of a lovely home, pleasant meals, and good entertainment will not be threatened, portends doom for us all.

When we come face-to-face with the actualities of human and planetary suffering, what does the powerful moment of truth do to us? Do we retreat into the comforts of theories and defense mechanisms, or are we awakened at the core of our being? Awareness of misery, without defense structures, will naturally lead to action. The heart cannot witness misery without calling the being to action, without activating the force of love. We may not act on a global or national scale; it may be only on a community or neighborhood scale—but act, respond, we must. Social responsibility flowers naturally when we perceive the world without the involvement of the ego-consciousness. When we relate directly to suffering, we are led to understanding and spontaneous action—but when we perceive the world through the ego, we are cut off from direct relationship, from communion that stirs the deepest level of our being.

The Force of Love Is the Force of Total Revolution

A tender, loving concern for all living creatures will need to arise and reign in our hearts if any of us is to survive. And our lives will be truly blessed only when the misery of one is genuinely felt to be the misery of all. The force of love is the force of total revolution. It is the unreleased force, unknown and unexplored as a dynamic for change.

We have moved very far away from love in our collective lives, dangerously near destruction, close to starvation. Perhaps we have the wisdom now, the awareness that love is as essential to human beings as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Love is the beauty, the delicate mystery, the soul of life, the radiant unspoiled purity that brings spontaneous joy, songs of ecstasy, poems, paintings, dances, dramas to celebrate its indescribable, never-to-be-fully-captured bliss of being. Can we bring love into the marketplaces, into the homes, the schools, the places of business, and transform them completely? You may call it a utopian challenge, but it is the only one that will make a significant difference or that is fully worthy of the potential of whole human beings.

Compassion is a spontaneous movement of wholeness. It is not a studied decision to help the poor, to be kind to the unfortunate. Compassion has a tremendous momentum that naturally, choicelessly moves us to worthy action. It has the force of intelligence, creativity, and the strength of love. Compassion cannot be cultivated; it derives neither from intellectual conviction nor from emotional reaction. It is simply there when the wholeness of life becomes a fact that is truly lived.

Compassion does not manifest itself when we live on the surface of existence, when we try to piece together a comfortable life out of easily available fragments. Compassion requires a plunge to the depths of life—where oneness is reality and divisions merely an illusion. If we dwell at the superficial layers of being, we’ll be overly conscious of the apparent differences in human beings on the physical and mental level, and of the superficial difference in cultures and behavior. If we penetrate to the essentials, however, we will discover that there is nothing fundamental that differentiates any human being from another, or any human being from any other living creature. All are manifestations of life, created with the same life principles and nurtured by the same life-support systems. Oneness is absolute reality; differentiation has only transitory, relative reality.

It is not sufficient that a few in society penetrate to the depths of living and offer fascinating accounts about the oneness of all beings. What is necessary in these critical times is that all sensitive and caring people make a personal discovery of the fact of oneness and allow compassion to flow in their lives. When compassion and realization of oneness becomes the dynamic of human relationship, then humankind will evolve.

We are suffering throughout the world in the darkness of the misery we have created. By believing in the fragmentary and the superficial, we have failed to live together in peace and harmony, and so darkness looms very large on the horizon. It’s in such darkness that common people such as you and I feel the urgency to go deeper, to abandon superficial approaches that are inadequate and to activate the creative forces available to each of us as expressions of wholeness. The vast intelligence that orders the cosmos is available to all. The beauty of life, the wonder of living, is that we share creativity, intelligence, and unlimited potential with the rest of the cosmos. If the universe is vast and mysterious, we are vast and mysterious. If it contains innumerable creative energies, we contain innumerable creative energies. If it has healing energies, we also have healing energies. To realize that we are not simply physical beings on a material planet, but that we are whole beings, each a miniature cosmos, each related to all of life in intimate, profound ways, should radically transform how we perceive ourselves, our environments, our social problems. Nothing can ever be isolated from wholeness.

There is much unexplored potential in each human being. We are not just flesh and bone or an amalgamation of conditionings. If this were so, our future on this planet would not be very bright. But there is infinitely more to life, and each passionate being who dares to explore beyond the fragmentary and superficial into the mystery of totality helps all humanity perceive what it is to be fully human. Revolution, total revolution, implies experimenting with the impossible. And when an individual takes a step in the direction of the new, the impossible, the whole human race travels through that individual.

- Vimala Thakar

This essay was originally posted on:  http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j19/vimala.asp?page=1

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

To read more of Vimala Thakar see:  http://o-meditation.com/jai-guru-deva/some-good-books/downloadable-books/vimala-thakar/

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A Cup of Tea with Vimala Thakar

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Vimala Thakar’s house in Mt. Abu

It was at Ajja’s ashram in Puttur that Vimala Thakar’s name first came up. We were told that there was a woman who lived in Mt. Abu who had become enlightened through J. Krishnamurti and that she was available for visitors.

On our way north through India we went through Rajasthan. We arrived in Mt. Abu and chose a guest house out of Lonely Planet. After settling in we informed the manager that we were interested in visiting Vimala Thakar and asked if he knew of her. We had chosen well, the guest house was located less than 100 meters from her house and the manager himself was a friend of hers.

He called and made arrangements for an appointment for us to visit the following day.

We arrived and were shown into a small sitting room where we met Vimalaji. There was a tremendous force of presence around her body. We introduced ourselves and told her that we were Osho sannyasins. She said a few words to each of us about the names Osho had given us. She asked us about our travels in India and in general about the life we were living letting life itself lead the way.

Over tea she told us that Osho had invited her to Jabalpur to speak at the university where he was chair of the Philosophy Department. She told us of his taking her out on the Narmada river in a boat and then to the Kwality Ice Cream shop in town. She said that she had chided him about his tastes in food because they were not good for his health and that she felt like an older sister to him but that Rajneeshji was Rajneeshji meaning that he wasn’t one for listening to advice.  She also said that she was sad for what had happened to him in Oregon.

I told her that I didn’t know very much about her but had heard the story concerning Krishnamurti and wanted to ask her about it. She proceeded to relate the story that you will find in her book On An Eternal Journey. I will let her tell you the story and that way will not need to rely on my memory. She also related the story in an interview with Chris Parish for the magazine What Is Enlightenment. I am also including a link to the interview below.

When our time was up she gave us four of her books. This was a very deliberate act and even the giving seemed pregnant with importance. I had never read any of her words and they have proved to be extremely helpful to me. Thank you, Vimalaji.

In some ways her style of teaching is reminiscent of J. Krishnamurti which is not surprising.  But because she too was a University professor and had studied Western Philosophy and Psychology she includes that breadth of knowledge that Osho brings into his discourses.

Two of her books are easily available in the west through Rodmell Press and I have posted some excerpts on this site. The book I mentioned above, On An Eternal Journey, I have not been able to find copies for sale, but you can download it from the link below.

Here you will find a link for the book On An Eternal Journey.

link for the Chris Parish interview:  http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j10/vimala_fire.asp

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

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Concentration, Attention, and Awareness – Vimala Thakar

Mount Abu; July 12, 1973

Let us begin our inquiry by considering concentration, attention, and awareness. Concentration is attention that is limited by motive, by direction, and by time duration. Motive gives direction and thereby creates the boundaries of attention. Concentration is attention that has chains on its hands and feet as it were.

You can have a motive in relation to known things: things that are known to you, to your family, to your community, to your fellow countrymen, or to the human race at large. You can have a motive in relation to things that have been experienced by people all over the world. But a motive in relation to the unknown is impossible. You can have a motive in relation only to that which has been known, experienced, measured, evaluated, and judged, either by you or by your family or community, and so on, and so on. That is how we have been brought up.

Now, divinity (call it divinity, call it God, call it reality, call it the universal intelligence, call it cosmic consciousness, call it the totality of existence: give it any name) is not in the category of the known, the experienced, the compared, the evaluated, and the judged. The human race has inhabited the globe for millions of years, but there are things that have not been adequately verbalized yet, like truth, beauty, love, and freedom. And silence has not yet been measured. It has not been grasped by the mind and put into the framework of time and space. So in relation to the known, there can be motives. Concentration is an activity always in relation to the known. Either you want it or you want to give it up.

There is another kind of mental activity that is called attention. Attention is the involuntary reflex action of the brain, of the cerebral organ. When your eyes are open, they see things. You may not look at things, but the involuntary action of the eyes is to see objects; the involuntary action of the ears is to hear sounds; the involuntary action of the nose is to smell odors, scents, perfumes, fragrances. The involuntary action, the action built into the very structure of the skin, is to feel the touch, the hot, the cold, the pleasant, and the unpleasant. In the same way, the human brain has been made sensitive in such a way that its built-in action is to attend to things, even without a motive.

Concentration, which is based upon motive, gives direction and limits attention. Attention is an involuntary cerebral activity. You can’t change it, you can’t suppress it, you can’t inhibit it, unless you use violence against yourself. You use violence in many forms. Either you dull the brain with medicines, with drugs, or you dull the brain by repetition of certain words, chanting them over and over again so that the brain moves in a channel and can’t move outside of the channel. It is the built-in action of the brain to attend to things. Your eyes are closed and there is a bird chirping somewhere on some branch of some tree and the brain attends to it. Being a cultured and civilized human being, your brain immediately distinguishes the sound of the horn of a car from the sound of the call of a bird: it says, that is the horn of a car. A person who has lived in deep jungles or forests somewhere in Africa or in Australia will not be able to recognize the noise of the jet plane flying over a city. It may not be possible for the person living in a village to distinguish the sound of a transistor, a tape recorder, a radio, and so on. So civilization has developed certain powers, cultivated certain powers, and now they are built into your brain and my brain. That is our inheritance. The cultivated brain is our inheritance, and people living in countries where science and technology have advanced to a very considerable extent have very sophisticated brains.

So the brain attends to a sound. And what does “attending to” imply? Recognizing. First, cognition: there is a sound. The brain cognizes. Then recognition: the brain recognizes, that is to say, it identifies and gives the sound a name, distinguishing it from others. That is what naming implies. You give a name to distinguish one thing as separate and independent of the other, separate from the other. There is a car passing by, there is a child shrieking, and so on. So attention means cognition, identification, recognition, and naming.

All this goes on and I don’t think it is bondage. The naming and the indentifying process in the brains of cultured and civilized people is a very harmless, innocent cerebral activity. It goes on. The brain attends to it. It is not concentration. The mind has not come into play to focus all the brain’s energy on a certain purpose in order to gain something from it. It is just simple, innocent, bare attention, which is bound to go on as long as you and I are alive. And I think that is the beauty of human life. Attention is different from concentration, and yet it is an activity of the brain.

Now from attention we move to awareness. Awareness is the nature of intelligence. It has nothing to do with the brain, with intellect, with naming, with identifying. So first of all, when one sits down in silence, one plunges into an unconditional relaxation. One comes face-to-face with this deep-rooted habit of concentrating on things. One says, I am sitting down in silence, but the bird disturbs me. The bird won’t disturb me unless I concentrate upon it. I attend to it and call it a disturbance the moment I judge it, evaluate it, the moment I have concentrated upon it. So I say, It disturbs me, it distracts me. The moment I say that it distracts me or it disturbs me, it indicates that I have been resisting.

Resistance is inverted concentration. Resistance as a form of concentration has got to be unmasked. Before one can proceed toward meditation, it is absolutely necessary to unmask various activities. Resistance is a form of concentration: otherwise, why should it disturb me? The fact that it disturbs me implies that I have formed a relationship with it, a relationship of resistance. It is as if the bird is singing in order to disturb me, as if the car is passing by in order to distract me. I relate myself in that way. Resistance implies relationship. A relationship that has the friction of resistance leads to disharmony.

I wish that you could see the beauty of this. Unless you form a relationship of resistance, there cannot be disturbance and distraction. And one speaks this out of personal experience. For the past thirty or forty years that one has lived, one has not come across things and individuals who could disturb, who could distract. To be disturbed or distracted by something means it irritates me, it annoys me. I want to do something, and it does not allow me to do it. You build up a relationship with disturbance or distraction.

When you are attending—that is to say, when the brain is attending—to objects and there is no resistance built up by the mind, due to certain motives, for certain purposes, the attention burns as brightly as a flame. This is again a cerebral activity. This is a habit of the brain to attend to things. In that state of attention, whatever flows is allowed to flow, allowed to come in and move out, allowed to come up from within and subside. Thus in the mirror of attention it becomes possible for you to look at yourself: the feelings, the thoughts, the sentiments, and the emotions. You are looking at yourself. When you stand before the mirror you are looking at yourself. There seems to be the other, and yet there is no other. There is only you yourself and there is the mirror and there is the activity of looking at yourself.

This metaphor is very important for what we are going to talk about. We have to deal with things invisible, intangible, and so we will need the help of metaphors without stretching them too far, without making them ugly. So attention enables you to be in a state where thoughts, experiences, and memories are looked at. Yet you are looking at them, but not concentrating upon them. The moment that you begin to analyze them, you are concentrating upon them. The moment that you compare and evaluate them, you slip from the state of attention into the state of concentration.

It is a slippery ground between attention and concentration. If, for the fun of it, you sit before a mirror and look at your hands, nose, clothes, and the shape of your body, you are looking at particular parts of yourself. The relation is in duality. But you can look at your own body—you see your image, you see your reflection—but you are not looking at particular parts of your body. You are not looking at the clothes, the feet, the hands: it is just seeing and not looking. Then you are aware. When you are not looking at particular parts of the body, you are aware of the shape of the mirror, you are aware of things that are behind you getting reflected into the mirror. You are aware of the light of the sun coming through the window toward the mirror, and of the play of the light and the dance of the light in the mirror and in the room: you are aware of the whole room. The moment that looking at particular parts of the body is over, you are in the state of seeing. Seeing enables you to be aware of yourself, of the reflection, of the mirror, and of the ceiling, do you see? Frontiers are widening, horizons of attention begin to widen.

Concentration is a relationship with the particular, and attention is a relationship with the whole. And then, as before, your seeing goes on widening and widening and you are aware. It is not a cerebral activity any more. As long as you were looking at it, it was a cerebral activity, but later on you see the mirror, the walls and the reflection. You are not looking at anything. You are just seeing. And the seeing changes into being aware.

Awareness is the nature of intelligence that vibrates in the universe. Awareness is the purest movement of energy. We have talked about the physical, we have talked about the cerebral, and now we come to awareness, which is a movement of intelligence contained in your whole being. When you listen to music, you do not hear only with the ears. First of all, you listen with the ears to the melody, the notes, the volume, the frequency of sound vibrations. Then the listening widens into hearing. You are aware of the notes, the overtones, and the undertones: the whole person is singing. You are aware of the movement of singing in the person and the movement that music has brought about within you. So listening grows into awareness: awareness of the musician, awareness of the listener, awareness of the surroundings. So awareness is a movement of the sensitivity, of the intelligence, that is vibrating in the whole of you. When you are near a forest, mountain, hill, lake, beautiful field, or seashore, your whole being becomes aware of the scenery. Those who look only with the eyes will get bored with the mountains, the river, or the Himalayas in no time. Because they look only through the eyes, and hear only through the ears, they do not allow the looking and listening to grow into awareness. Concentration and attention and then unresisted attention—unmutilated attention—develops into awareness. It is no longer a cerebral activity: it has become the movement of your total sensitivity, of your intelligence, of your whole being. It is a happening in your totality. And yet I say that this is not meditation.

Awareness has a movement, the movement of intelligence, which is the nature of energy outside you and within you. This is not yet meditation. But it leads you to the threshold of the state of meditation. Intelligence is the movement of energy. It is the purest form of movement, not contaminated by the cerebral structure, the thoughts, the feelings, the sentiments, the habits, the values, or ideologies. It is untouched by the human mind, and yet it is a movement of energy. Tomorrow morning we will see how energy is the property of matter. But even the movement of intelligence, even the state of awareness, is not the state of meditation, because you are still in the field of very subtle matter. Energy and movement go together; energy is the property of matter. Movement is an indication that we are still in the field of matter. We are proceeding very slowly and very gradually, because we are dealing with meditation, which is a new dimension of consciousness. The whole human race is struggling emotionally and intellectually to grow into an entirely new dimension of life. So this is not a game of words; this is not speculation; this is not sentimentalism. This is something that you have to explore within the laboratory of your own mind and body.

From concentration you move to attention. In the state of attention, there are no frontiers; there is no direction; there is no motive; but still there is you looking at yourself, which is a cultivated duality, a conceptual duality. From attention you grow into the state of awareness, where there is no “I” and “it,” there is no “me” and “you”: there is only a movement of intelligence vibrating. The person is living and therefore vibrates with intelligence. That is the sensitivity contained in his or her body. Concentration involves mind, memory, experience, and energy. Every attention involves the habit pattern of the cerebral organ. Awareness implies and involves sensitivity of the totality and yet there is movement. And wherever there is movement, there is energy. Energy is the property of matter, and therefore a person living in the state of awareness of the totality is not yet in the state of meditation.

Those of you who have been with me in Norway, the Netherlands, or California know very well that I am interested in this subject from an educational point of view, that is, the education of the human psyche, the human race trying to educate itself and grow into a new dimension. So I deal with meditation as far as words can carry us rationally, scientifically, and sanely. As long as the brain can work, we have to move with the brain. If you deny the brain, then there will be an inhibition and every inhibition is an intrusion and is an obstruction. If you go against the brain, if you deny the brain, if you deny yourself, or if you deny sentiments, the emotions, then every suppression will lead to a psychosomatic obstacle. So we are not going to do that. We will go with reason as far as it takes us. This helps the inquirer to maintain his freedom, his initiative, and his balance of mind.

If you surrender your freedom and expect everything to be done for you by others, then you give up your initiative and you give up the balance of your mind. Man has struggled for freedom in the political and economic field. He should be careful not to throw away his psychic freedom. There will be exchanges, there will be communications, there will be discussions with persons who have made the inner journey, but the exchanges will be in the atmosphere of friendship and not in the atmosphere of authority. Man has struggled for freedom for so many centuries: witness the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Indian Revolution under Gandhi, The African-Americans struggling for freedom under the guidance of Martin Luther King Jr., the Africans struggling under the leadership of Kenneth Kuanda and Jomo Kenyata. So if you value economic, political, and social freedom, don’t give up your psychic freedom in a minute in exchange for a few shabby experiences. Those who say that without the relationship of authority, spiritual exploration cannot take place, are doing damage to the human mind. I say to you, it is possible. It has been possible. If it is possible in the life of an average person—Vimala, who sits before you—then it can happen in your own life. It can happen provided there is an inquiry, provided the inquiry is correlated with your whole life, and provided the inquiry is allowed to grow, blossom, and bring about changes in your life.

This is something very serious that I am communicating every day. Bit by bit, step by step, we will go into the deeper regions of the human psyche.

- Vimala Thakar

from Blossoms of Friendship. Motilal Banarsidass, 1973. Rodmell Press, 2003.

Here you can find Vimala’s talk on the next day The Movement of the Mind.

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

To read more of Vimala Thakar see:  http://o-meditation.com/jai-guru-deva/some-good-books/downloadable-books/vimala-thakar/

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The Movement of the Mind – Vimala Thakar

Mount Abu; July 13, 1973

The brain, or the mind, is a sense organ like any other sense organ in the human body. And thinking, feeling, or willing, or, for that matter, any and every cerebral activity, is a sensual activity. This sense organ, the cerebral structure, is invisible; it is invisible but not intangible; it can be touched and felt through machines maneuvered by man. Thus thinking is as much a material activity or physical activity as any other known and identified physical activity. Just as you hear the sound of cars or perceive objects with the eyes and the optical nerves, and you call it audition or perception, in the same way the brain responds to the challenges and the situations that emerge in daily life. That response is called thinking, feeling or sentiment, according to its functional nature.

There is movement in the cerebral organ when you think or feel, when you experience emotions or sentiments. When you remember, recollect, contemplate, ponder, or think, there is a very subtle cerebral movement that spreads all over the body and affects the nervous system of the whole being. It is a movement. It is an activity. It consumes energy. It stimulates energy. So in concentration or in the state of attention or observation, a very subtle kind of movement goes on. It is not meditation. The state of experiencing is not the state of meditation; the state of thinking or feeling is not the state of meditation and in the same way, the state of observation or the state of bare, simple attention is still not the state of meditation.

We saw yesterday that movement indicates energy and energy is the property of matter. Energy exists in matter. If you analyze matter into atoms, electrons, and molecules, you will find that there is energy contained in the finest particle of matter. It is impossible to come across a particle of matter that has no energy and therefore no movement. Matter has energy and energy has movement. Thought is matter. Thinking is a material, sensual activity and has tremendous energy. It has a movement that has been measured by man, qualified, modified, sophisticated, regulated, and controlled by man. Culture and civilization regulate and control cerebral activity and, indirectly, psychophysical and physical activity. They regulate and control psychological and biological movement. The content of culture and civilization is to give cerebral activity a direction, to regulate it, to modify it, so sophisticate it, and so on, and so on. Thus in the state of attention, the brain is moving. The built-in movement of cognition goes on. As the eyes involuntarily see and the ears involuntarily hear, the brain involuntarily is in the state of attention. You may not look at an object, you may only see it, and yet your brain registers the form, the shape, the color, and tells you the name of the object according to your education, culture, and civilization. An Indian villager, for example, will not know what to call a spacecraft or spaceship. He will see a form in the sky. So the brain of a simple villager in India will register the shape, the color, perhaps the material of the spacecraft, but not the name. The villager has not had the education or the cultural upbringing. He does not know the thing. But still the brain registers the color, the shape, the size, the mass, the volume.

If a person does not know Indian music, he will not be able to tell you the raga, the melody, the tila, the time beats, and so on. The person will feel only the volume and perhaps the pitch, if he has the sensitivity. So the registration, the naming, the cognition by the brain take place according to the person’s education, culture, or the context of his life: urban life or agrarian life. But it is an involuntary activity of the brain. So the brain is in the state of attention, and whether you want it to or not, it identifies the shape, the size, the color, and perhaps the name. In other words, it is a response of the brain to the movement of life outside the skin. You don’t make an effort, but yet there is a movement, movement of the energy contained in the brain.

I am trying to share with you something that I have seen. We have been going step by step for the past couple of days into this very complex and subtle region of the human psyche. The brain indicates the color, the shape, the size, and even the name, but the sting of reaction, that is to say, the activity of the ego, the self, the me, does not take place. The distinction between concentration and attention has to be understood and grasped very clearly. In a state of concentration, you react. You resist. But in a state of attention there is no resistance. There is no analysis. There is no reaction of the ego.

In experiencing, the reactions are very gross and understandable by anyone. In concentration, the reactions are subtle, but still noticeable. In attention, there is no reaction, but movement is still there. When a human being sustains the state of attention and the intensity thereof for some time, intelligence begins to unfold itself. Just as out of a bud the flower blossoms and unfolds itself, so, too out of unconditional relaxation (the state of attention that is the involuntary cerebral activity through which one has to go), intelligence begins to unfold itself. Intelligence is the sensitivity of the whole body. Attention is a cerebral activity. Concentration includes psychological reaction in addition to cerebral activity. When the attention is sustained, the sensitivity of the whole body begins to unfold itself, to operate and function, so that there is no longer a cerebral activity, but the total existence becomes eloquent.

Awareness is the existential eloquence of the person, and yet the sensitivity, the intelligence expressing itself in awareness, is not meditation. I am aware of the things around me; I am aware of the stillness of my body; I am aware of the state of attention contained in me; I am aware of the vibrations outside and inside me. That is to say, the I, or the state of awareness, and the surroundings, or the life of which I am aware, are distinctly different from each other. In the state of attention, the brain is active; now the whole being acts and yet there is a distinction. I am aware of the totality, but even then I stand outside the totality to be aware of it.

You may be a witness to the whole universe. It indicates that you are trying to stand outside the universe to be aware of it. Thus awareness is still an individual movement: the individual stands apart from the universe; the individual stands apart from the cosmos. That movement of the individual may be in harmony with the universal movement, and it may be in harmony with the cosmic movement, but there is still movement taking place within the individual. The complex consciousness that man has enables him to be aware that he is in the state of awareness. In awareness, you feel the presence of the life around you; you feel the presence of the life within you. You feel the presence not of specific objects that you would count, compare, and evaluate, but you feel the presence of the totality within you and the totality outside you. You feel the coexistence of the individual totality, that is to say, the universe condensed in the human form; after all, that is what you are. So one is aware of the totality contained in the human form existing side by side with the totality outside the skin.

We are now in the region of what is most difficult to verbalize. When you say I am in the state of awareness, there is no attention or observation. They are left behind. Even in the state of awareness, it seems to me, movement is taking place in the individual. And movement, indicating energy contained in certain forms of matter, is within the field of time and space, and life is much vaster than time and space. Time and space are contained in life. Movement takes place within time and space. But life also exists outside time and space. The is-ness, the to-be-ness of life, has no movement in it. So human consciousness can take you from the field of experiencing, doing, concentrating, observing, and paying attention, to the state of awareness. The human consciousness, or psyche, can carry you up to the region of awareness. Beyond the state of awareness, there is no consciousness, no movement, no time and space. Perhaps that is the state that could be called the state of meditation, the state of samadhi. In meditation, there is no movement. Life has no movement: it is only matter that has movement. Movement and energy are the property of matter. Life is is-ness without any movement whatsoever. That which remains without movement can be called neither individual nor universal. It has no center and no circumference. Intellectual activity has a center, the me, the self, the ego. Awareness as the activity of the intelligence has the whole human body, the human individual, as the center. Beyond awareness, the individual is not at the center. Nothing moves out of the individual. Nothing emanates or radiates from the person. Just as in the state of observation there is no ego-centered activity, so in the state of awareness, the whole cerebral organ does not function. Beyond awareness, the individual entity and the movements contained in the individual entity are simply not there. I wish that I could verbalize this more fully.

In the state of meditation, the ocean of is-ness is left without a ripple. Even that metaphor is imperfect. If I liken it to vast space, even that metaphor does not satisfy me. Because compared to life, space is gross; compared to life, time is gross. The is-ness, the to-be-ness, the suchness of life is something for which one will have to find words to communicate. Mind you, this talk is not an effort to expound anything. This is only a very friendly sharing of something that one sees and something that one lives. But we will proceed with this tomorrow. We talked about concentration, attention, and awareness yesterday. We might talk about movement, vibration, and vibrationless is-ness tomorrow.

- Vimala Thakar

from Blossoms of Friendship. Motilal Banarsidass, 1973. Rodmell Press, 2003.

See Vimala’s next day talk:

http://pgoodnight.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/consciousness-is-matter-vimala-thakar/

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

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Consciousness Is Matter – Vimala Thakar

Mount Abu; July 14, 1973

I wonder whether it will be possible for me to communicate through words what I would like to share with you this morning, whether it will be possible for me to communicate it in terms that will make some sense to you. Yet there is an urge to share this unusual approach to meditation.

We saw yesterday that the state of awareness is a state of the whole being in which intelligence functions. Intelligence, being the sensitivity, the uncontaminated movement, of the basic energy contained in the being, is not conditioned by knowledge and experience. Intelligence is neither individual nor collective. Knowledge can be individual as well as collective. There can be individual experiences and collective experiences. Like love, sensitivity, truth, and beauty, intelligence is neither individual nor collective; it is neither personal nor impersonal. Thus it is not conditioned by knowledge and experience. It is unmutilated. It is an undivided whole.

This intelligence begins to operate in the state of awareness. Intelligence is the movement of unconditioned energy, but still it is energy. So in the state of awareness, the movement of unconditioned energy goes on. And there is an intercourse between the movement of awareness in the individual and the movement of intelligence outside the individual in the universe. The cosmic intelligence, the cosmic energy, and the unconditioned energy contained in the individual meet together. There is a kind of consummation. Those energies meet without reservation. There is an unconditional encounter between the intelligence contained in the individual and the intelligence contained in the universe. In other words, the individual unconditioned consciousness and the universal, or cosmic, consciousness meet together, in the state of awareness. They are in a deep embrace as it were. That is what the mystics call the marriage between the individual and the universal. The mystical marriage with the beloved, with God, with the divinity, is what Indians call the marriage between Shiva and Shakti. But still it is the meeting between the unconditioned individual energy and the unconditioned energy outside it.

That is a happening that takes place. In the state of awareness there may not be experiences, but there are happenings. Thus when Jesus of Nazareth came down from the mountain after forty days of solitude, his Apostles could not recognize him. A psychic marriage between the individual and the universal consciousness had taken place. He came down with light shining upon the forehead and speaking in terms indescribably simple and elegant. That very simplicity baffled his followers. He had gone through the happening.

After forty-eight days of fasting and penance under the bodhi tree, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha. Something happened within him; something happened in the unconditioned part of his consciousness. Something happened in the sphere of intelligence contained in his being. And that day is still marked in history as the day of Buddha’s self-realization, the day of Buddha’s nirvana.

After twelve long years of penance and austerity, there took place a happening in the life of Mahavira, the so-called founder of the Jain religion. On the plane of intellect, experiences take place. On the plane of intelligence and awareness, happenings take place: Happenings that cannot be interpreted into the language of the known, happenings that cannot be captured in the framework of an ego-centered experience. And yet a happening is a movement that takes place in the psyche of the individual. Self-realization as a happening took place in the Buddha’s life. One can say that after such a happening, there was light. There was illumination.

The substratum of intelligence is the intellect. The substratum of awareness and intelligence, the substratum of the unconditioned energy, is the conditioned energy, the passively alert brain. It may be passively alert or it may be in choiceless awareness, but it is there as the substratum. You know, in the conditioned psyche, you have the conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious. Now these three, after becoming a homogeneous whole, go into abeyance, but they are there. Whatever happens on the level of intelligence or awareness has the whole conditioned psyche as the substratum. Otherwise, verbalization of the happening would be impossible. Memory of the happening would be impossible. So the individual as an entity separate from the universe is there. The unconditioned psyche in the individual and unconditioned psyche in the universe meet together, on the soil of the conditioned total human psyche, the racially conditioned psyche.

There have been efforts to verbalize such happenings. Like Aurobindo, you may call it the descent of the divine taking place in the individual psyche. You may call it the moment of illumination in the life of Ramakrishna, when the image of the Mother Kali disappeared while he was sitting before it with a sword in his hand, yearning and pining in agony for realization. The sword dropped from his hands and the only description we got from his lips afterward was “There was light, light, and light.” So at the moment in the psyche of Ramakrishna, something took place.

There is a ripple. There is a happening. Awareness has a movement of unconditioned energy, and energy is the property of matter. Thus even at that level, whatever takes place is not beyond time and space, though it is unrelated to time and space. It is unrelated to time and space in the sense that it cannot use them to bring about this happening. It may be a very significant event because the individual changes. The union with the universal energy, the cosmic consciousness, transforms the individual in many ways. It brings about great changes in his physical and cerebral quality.

And yet I dare say to you, my friends, that this is not silence. And this is not meditation. It is a very significant, romantic thing that can happen to a human being. Man has indulged enough in this romance with the unconditioned energy, the unknown, the unexperienced, the unnamed. He has indulged in this experience, in the East as well as the West, for thousands of years. It has its own beauty. It has its own grandeur. Sensual experience and psychological ecstasy have altogether different qualities from the happening on the level of intelligence or sensitivity. And yet in a way, they are the movements that take place in the individual as an entity separate from the universe. You will be surprised that I call the conditioned psyche the substratum—the undercurrent—of intelligence, or awareness. Why do I call it this? Because those individuals who have gone through such happenings have tried to verbalize them and have said, “It is immeasurable; it is unknowable.” Unless there is a consciousness of the measurableness of a thing, how do you call something immeasurable? People have been trying to describe divinity as that which is unknowable, that which is immeasurable and unnameable; but unless I am conscious of the memory, of the activity of naming, the name and nameableness, how can I call something unnameable and immeasurable? I hope that you see my point that the substratum of the conditioned psyche recognizes the names and the nameableness; the known and the knowableness; the measures and the measurableness. One is aware of all that. Therefore, man has been trying to say, “God is immeasurable, the divinity is unknowable.”

The illusion that there is a dichotomy between the known and the unknown, the measurable and the immeasurable, has been persisting in the human mind for thousands of years. Thus even the state of awareness is not the state of silence. It is a state of quietness, no doubt. It is a state of peacefulness, no doubt. It is a state of the ego, with the whole paraphernalia of knowledge and experience going into abeyance. Yet it is not silence. The state of awareness is a state of passive receptivity for the cosmic consciousness to work upon. It has been called peaceful alertness or choiceless awareness. Krishnaji (Krishnamurti) is the only person in the world today, who brings his audiences to the threshold of the known and points out the direction toward the unknown and unknowable; who points out the frontiers of all human measurements and brings his audiences with terrible intensity to the doorstep of the immeasurable.

As long as it is possible to describe something as immeasurable, unknowable, and unnamable, you are within the frontiers of time and space. So it may be unconditioned energy, but still it is energy with very subtle matter around it. It is only when the state of awareness subsides completely, when there is neither an awareness of the universe around you nor an awareness of the intelligence, sensitivity, or unconditioned energy within yourself, that silence as a dimension comes to life. The conditioned human psyche and the unconditioned human psyche both become quiet. If the conditioned human psyche is quiet and the unconditioned psyche is in a state of passive alertness and choiceless awareness, happenings are bound to take place. I have nothing against these experiences or happenings. Please do not misunderstand me. But one has to see the facts as they are. Just as visions and experiences are the projections of the cosmic and the universal into the individual. Until the state of meditation is reached, one is not in a new dimension of life.

Meditation is a new dimension of life altogether. There one is entirely free of consciousness, which is energy—a very subtle matter contained in the human brain. It is a very daring thing to say that the whole human psyche is very subtle matter, and yet I say that consciousness, whether conditioned or unconditioned, is matter.

- Vimala Thakar

from Blossoms of Friendship. Originally published by Motilal Banarsidass. Recently by Rodmell Press.

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The Ending of Inquiry as an Intellectual Movement – Vimala Thakar

You see for yourself that every movement of the mind of the mind, the ‘Me’, the ‘I’ is mechanistic - whether it moves in the direction of society, of politics, of economics or in the direction of sex – the movement is mechanistic. You understand that the mental movement now is irrelevant. The perception, the observation brings the ‘I’ consciousness to this point: that my movement corrupted by the content, is bound to be mechanistic, is bound to refer to concepts and is bound to create a new measurement to measure the divine. My movement can be only relevant on the conceptual level but it is irrelevant for further inquiry.

The inquiry as a movement of the ‘I’ has served its purpose. It has seen its own limitations and therefore it stops. The relaxation of the mental effort, the relaxation of the mental movement as a fact has to happen within. Because of the inner urge to learn and to live – which is a non-rational, non-calculated urge – because of that urge the ‘ I’ consciousness is now willing, is now inclined to stop moving.

Up til now, the inquiry was with the help of an effort, now the inquiry will enter the dimension of effortlessness. Silence is effortlessness. Silence is effortless alertness. So the ‘I’ consciousness says ‘I am not going to observe. My observation brought me to the fact of the mechanistic nature of my movement, so I stop.’ Does the stopping take place in your life? The integrity and the genuineness of inquiry requires this questioning of oneself. Have we ever allowed that movement to stop, to discontinue? Not when you are sitting in your room but when you are moving through relationships. Has one ever experimented with the present absolutely, defenselessly? “Defenselessly” means without the defence of the past. The past is a kind of defense, and its movement is like security.

Now the psyche is filled with Silence, not filled with thoughts, concepts, ideas, theories and conclusions. You know, all that is gone. Now the emptiness of consciousness is filled with Silence. One says it is filled with silence because silence is an energy. If you had heard the speaker some time ago you might have heard the words “energy gets stimulated in silence, the new energy of Intelligence gets stimulated in silence.” No! As it was pointed out earlier, the speaker is growing, is learning. Life is infinite and till the last breath the learning shall continue so there may be changes in expression. I say silence is energy.

The moment you allow your movement, the movement of the Ego to discontinue, not out of any tension, pressure, but out of understanding, then relaxation takes place. If that relaxation takes place, then the emptiness of consciousness is filled with Silence. That energy is uncorrupted, unmutilated, unfragmented, unindividuated. Now observation or perception takes place out of the emptiness of consciousness, out of that silence. The energy of silence perceives through the eyes. The energy of silence listens through the ears. That energy is not an indentity like ‘Me’, the ‘Ego’. If fills your whole being. There is an observation without the observer.

Observation without the observer is the state of wholeness of perception and wholeness of responses.

Inquiry moved from the theoretical to the practical, where it was still a movement of the ‘I’ consciousness. That movement has stopped – again a quantum jump. Now observation becomes a movement of the spontaneity. When the cool breeze that comes and soothes your body and relaxes you completely, is there someone who is blowing the breeze towards you? It’s a movement of the breeze, it’s natural. So observation as a dimension of your whole life becomes a movement of the spontaneity, of that wholeness.

Inquiry as a movement of the mind has stopped. You see if the state of observation, the dimension of observation is allowed to open up in your being then inquiry as an intellectual movement, as a mental movement, as a movement of investigation by the ‘I’ consciousness, exploration by the ‘I’ consciousness has ended.

Vimala Thakar

from What Is Meditation? 1998 Vimal Prakashan Trust

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