To Work for Our Own Salvation – Vimala Thakar

Question:

You seem to be very optimistic about the development of the human mind, and yet the world has not changed in spite of Buddha and Christ?

Vimala:

The world has changed due to Buddha and Christ, in spite of the churches and in spite of the Buddhist organizations. When one is intimately and directly involved with life, related to life, there is no scope for forming an attitude towards life. Optimism is an attitude towards life, it is an approach to life which connects you with life indirectly. You do not need any optimism, pessimism, enthusiasm, or indifference towards life, when at every moment of your waking consciousness you are already in the stream itself, in the movement of life itself. Those who are afraid to swim stand on the banks of the river of life, of the river of relationships, and measure the depth, speed, momentum, coolness,  hotness, etc. of the water. But, one who plunges into life does not require any measurements at all, any attitudes, any approaches.

Could it be that the world did not change in spite of Buddha and Christ, because the human mind was in the habit of looking for a saviour, waiting for someone to work for their redemption? When you wait for a saviour to save you, to work for your redemption and set you free of your sins, you become a passive consumer of ideas, of doctrines, of theories. You accept their authority; you swallow their words without digesting them. I think the spiritual consumerism that the human race has lived by through untold centuries, accepting authority, imitating words, waiting to be saved, has caused a psychic lethargy, a psychic laziness and passivity. Now we have seen that we cannot be saved that way. We have to work for our own salvation, for our own liberation or enlightenment. Psychic or spiritual acceptance of authority has lost its relevance. That is one factor in our favour, it has created a compulsion to exercise our brains, to exercise our sensitivity, and understand life.

Secondly, it seems to me that in the East as well as in the West it was considered necessary to retire from life, to withdraw from responsibilities, withdraw from relationships, in order to live a religious life. You joined an order of monks or nuns, you became a renunciate or a disciple, and then you enquired about the meaning of life, the mystery of godhood, the secret of eternity. It was done in isolation. Every culture, every society, maintained a class of religious teachers, preachers and enquirers, and looked after them, just as you maintain an army, a militia, to save you from foreign invasion. People used to join religious orders and the rest of the society was happy to pay a weekly, or a bi-weekly visit to a temple, church, or mosque, feeling assured that they were going to be saved. This enquiry, this exploration of the divinity in isolation has become irrelevant.

We are talking about self-discovery that takes place in the midst of relationships. Do you see the change? First, no authority of individuals, one has to become one’s own saviour or redeemer. And secondly, the enquiry, the exploration, the experimentation has to be conducted in the midst of relationships, where you are, in your own home, family situation, job situation, political life, economic life. Relationships are the occasions for self-discovery. They are the occasions for the exploration of peace and love and freedom.

Thirdly, it seems to me that at the end of the twentieth century, mankind has discovered that there is nothing like an individual mind, an individual ego, an individual self or me, for whose liberation one has to work. This psychological myth has been exploded in the second half of this century. It has been discovered and accepted by the human race that there is one global human consciousness, which has been conditioned in various ways.

The movement of the mind is the movement of the conditioned neurochemical system in the body. Conditionings are fed into the human organism with the help of words, ideas, symbols and measurements, they are all imprinted on the human organism. And the mental movement is nothing but a replay of these conditionings. So the fear of mind and mental movement is disappearing from the human consciousness. The global human consciousness realizes the built-in limitations of the mechanism and anatomy of the mind, and is learning to handle this neurochemical conditioned energy in a competent way.

I think the invention of the electronic brain, the computer, the calculator, has helped the human race. Science and technology have confronted us with a new context, that was not available in the days of Buddha, Christ, Rama, or Krishna. The repetitive mechanistic nature of the mental movement has been exposed and it feels so childish to worship the movement of mind, to worship its reactions, to make a big fuss about its anxieties, worries and brooding, which are just cerebral habit patterns, neurochemical habit patterns.

So whether the world has changed or not due to Buddha or Christ, the world is changing now, right before our eyes. It is not a political or an economic change, but the quality of the human consciousness is changing rapidly.

The friend who is talking to you has wandered over the globe for the last thirty years; she has seen how the young are free from hypocrisy and pretensions. They are more honest with themselves and others, they are not so tortured by the fear of what others may say.

We are living in a transitory period of human culture, the old norms, criteria and values have collapsed and the new ones have not yet emerged. The youth all over the world are struggling to form a new ethos for the nuclear age. Having seen how thought is nothing but memory, how mental movement is nothing but a conditioned energy contained in the neurochemical system, the human race has no time to waste on pampering and worshiping the movement of mind and thought. It will learn to use it in its relevant field of action. This it has to do choicelessly, there is no alternative.

Have you seen the intermingling of races and cultures taking place, due to jet aircraft? People now travel from one end of the globe to the other. This intermingling of races, cultures, religions and temperaments, due to the economic interweaving and intertwining of the trends of life, of political interaction, has loosened the grip of identification with a nation, a race or a religion. Without our conscious effort to do so, we are no longer in the grip of those ideas. We look upon ourselves as global human citizens.

I do not know if you have noticed the emergence of a planetary consciousness? This consciousness has not yet found a language to express itself in an organized systematic way, but it is manifesting itself in a hundred and one different ways in every part of the globe. There seem to be particular efforts conducted by youth groups, not connected with one another, indicating that a change in the quality of human consciousness is taking place due to the compulsions that the human race has created for itself through science, technology, means of transport and communication, the electronic media and so on.

The events that took place in the Middle East one year ago, would have exploded into a world war twenty-five years ago. Even the events taking place in the Soviet Union would have exploded into a huge civil war, chaos and anarchy. Have you not noticed the intervention of the United Nations Security Council? What is this concern? To avoid nuclear explosions? What is this environmental consciousness doing? Yes, there are signs of growing neurosis, violence, terrorism and militancy; these are the remnants of the decaying civilization, the hangovers which are going to be extinguished under their own burden and weight.

I only wanted to say that the relationship with spirituality, the methodologies of self-discovery have changed. You don’t need a Christ or a Buddha any more, it is the human beings themselves who, with their individual and collective initiatives, in utter freedom, are going to find out what is beyond thought, beyond time and space, and live related to them in an unprecedented way.

-Vimala Thakar

From Life As Teacher, pp. 83-89

Here you can see more from Vimala Thakar

Set Them on Fire! – Vimala Thakar

A Portrait of a Modern Sage
An interview by Chris Parish

This interview was published in EnlightenNext magazine.

“I am a simple person, a human being who has loved life and who has seen life as divinity itself. I have lived in love with life, madly in love with the human expression of life as divinity!”

Her voice is deep and confident, ringing with an underlying passion. She enunciates each word very clearly and without hesitation, giving the impression of a person who meets life head-on, someone who is unapologetically and fully present. Her eyes are soft and fearless. She sits on the edge of her seat, alert and leaning towards us, dressed in a clean, crisp, white sari. Immovably still, she has an undeniable power, yet she is in a flash gentle and gracious as she serves us tea.

This is our introduction to Vimala Thakar, the well-known spiritual figure, who traveled the world teaching for over thirty years. I have eagerly awaited this moment, the chance to talk to and interview this unusual woman. I heard her speak once in London twenty years ago and her words left a lasting impression on me. It was my recollection of her integrity and understanding that made me recently resolve to meet her again. She is the only person, as far as I am aware, whom J. Krishnamurti, the great spiritual revolutionary, ever pleaded with to go forth and teach.

Together with my old friend Shanti Adams, I’ve sought out Vimala Thakar here in Mount Abu, a hill station in the remote southern corner of the Indian desert state of Rajasthan, where she spends the winter months. Her house, which has been donated, is tranquil, set among the huge rock formations that dot the landscape.

Vimala meets us punctually at 9:30 a.m. in a small study off the entrance hall of her house, and I mention the proposed interview. My heart sinks when she says that while she is more than happy to have a dialogue with us, she doesn’t wish to be published and photographed. “I’m socially dead,” she adds.

It’s a great relief to us when, after further discussion, she very kindly makes an exception and allows us to interview her for What Is Enlightenment?. It occurs to me that her dislike of publicity is one reason why she is not better known in spiritual circles. I have never seen an interview with her or an article about her. Yet she has traveled and taught in thirty-five countries, has students and friends in all continents and has published many books in a number of languages.

In 1991 she decided to stop traveling outside her native India. But at seventy-four years old, she is still busy seeing the individuals and groups who make their way to her at Mount Abu, or in Dalhousie in the Himalayan foothills, where she stays during the heat of summer. She conducts inquiry groups and meditation camps with people from all over the world, ranging from yoga teachers and Buddhists to industrialists and Indo-Pakistan peace activists.

“Let me live as an invisible teacher—not a master but a teacher,” says Vimala in a voice which commands your attention. “I have been exploring a dimension of the relationship between the inquirer and the enlightened one on the basis of equality. It’s an exploration in a revolutionary relationship. All my life it has been a sharing, like members of a spiritual family, on the basis of friendship, cooperation.”

Her words, spoken so distinctly and unwaveringly, seem to intensify the atmosphere of silence that I feel in the room. I’m aware of a single sparrow on the window ledge keeping up a constant background chirping.

Vimala Thakar’s background is an extraordinary story. She tells us about her childhood and how her spiritual search began at the unusually early age of five. Born into a Brahmin family in India, she used to see her mother engaged in the worship of God and wondered, “How can God be that tiny thing—that statue?” So she asked her grandmother, who told her that God lives in the forest. Vimala ran away from home to the forest, searching for God, imploring God to reveal himself.

She attributes her non-authoritarian approach to spirituality to her father who was a rationalist through and through. From a very early age he knew that her life would be dedicated to liberation. When she was seven he said to her that he didn’t mind her devotion to spirituality, but asked her to promise never to accept any human being as the final authority, since the light of truth was in her own heart. He encouraged her to go to ashrams, to visit every spiritual celebrity, and he himself arranged for these trips. Spirituality was accepted in her family, and her grandfather was a close friend of the famous Swami Vivekananda.

She experimented with spending time in caves doing retreats, exploring concentration and other practices. As a young woman she became involved with the Bhoodan Movement—the Land-gift Movement of Vinoba Bhave, which encouraged rich landowners to voluntarily share their land with the very poor. She toured India constantly, addressing public meetings for a number of years. It was on such a tour in January 1956, when she was in Rajghat, Kashi, that a friend invited her to come to a series of three discourses to be given by J. Krishnamurti, the renowned Indian spiritual figure.

The talks had a very powerful effect on her and she at once understood all that he spoke of. She felt carried to the fountainhead of life, and it didn’t feel like she was listening to a speech. Then she attended his talks in Madras and had private interviews with him, which deeply affected her consciousness, catapulting her into profound silence.

Of her meeting with Krishnamurti, she told us, “I was very glad that a world-famous celebrity was confirming what I had learned. Krishnamurti said nothing new to me when I heard him for the first time. It was a verification of the truth that one had understood, and I was very happy to have met such a person. The verification came through his life, through his communications.” As a result of this meeting, she ultimately felt compelled to give up her work with the Land-gift Movement.

Vimala’s small autobiographical book On an Eternal Voyage, written in 1966, contains a beautiful and moving account of her meetings and experiences with Krishnamurti. In 1959 she started to have terrible ear trouble with unbearable pain, bleeding and fevers. An operation didn’t help, and by the end of 1960 she was prepared for and resigned to death, although at the same time she felt strangely and impenetrably calm within. Her last hope was a trip to England to consult ear specialists there. At this point she met with Krishnamurti again and he offered to help her. He told her that his mother had often said that his hands had healing power. She had mixed feelings about his offer, somehow feeling that she might mar the purity of the reverence and affection she felt for him as a teacher if she were to feel obligated to him. But after reflection she did accept his offer, and his laying on of hands brought her immediate relief. The fever and bleeding ceased and she experienced precious freedom from pain. He gave her more sessions and her hearing returned to normal.

Vimala went ahead with her visit to England, where the ear specialists confirmed her cure, and then went to recuperate in Switzerland at the invitation of Krishnamurti. She spent time with him in the summer resort of Gstaad. She was concerned to understand what had happened in the healing. At the same time she was experiencing a great upheaval in consciousness. “Something within has been let loose. It can’t stand any frontiers. . . . The invasion of a new awareness, irresistible and uncontrollable . . . has swept away everything,” she wrote.

She felt this change was also associated with the healing and was uncomfortable with the sense of indebtedness to Krishnamurti that she felt. He had to convince her that they were unconnected and that he himself didn’t know how the healing had happened. He said, “You have been listening to the talks. You have a serious mind. The talks were sinking deep into your being. They were operating all the time. One day you realized the truth. What have I done to it? . . . Why make an issue of it?”

She wrote an open letter to her colleagues and friends in the Land-gift Movement to explain why she had left: “No words could describe the intensity and depth of the experience through which I am passing. Everything is changed. I am born anew. This is neither wishful thinking nor is it a sentimental reaction to the healing. It is an astounding phenomenon. . . . Everything that has been transmitted to our mind through centuries will have to be discarded. . . . I have dealt with it. It has dropped away.”

Vimala went to meet Krishnamurti in Benares in December 1961. He asked her what she had been doing and she told him that she spent most of her time speaking with friends who were interested in her life.

“That is quite natural,” he replied. “But why don’t you explode? Why don’t you put bombs under all these old people who follow the wrong line? Why don’t you go around India? Is anyone doing this? If there were half a dozen, I would not say a word to you. There is none. . . . There is so much to do. There is no time. . . . Go—shout from the house tops, ‘You are on the wrong track! This is not the way to peace!’. . . Go out and set them on fire! There is none who is doing this. Not even one. . . . What are you waiting for?”

This conversation shook her to the core, but she also felt that “putting bombs under people” was not the whole story. Surely, she felt, one must also show people the right line of action and point out the way to rebuild the house. Further talks with him convinced her, and dispelled ideas which she saw were holding her back—for example, the idea that she should have her own language before starting to speak publicly—and also her fear of making mistakes. This was a pivotal moment, and in her words, “the burning ashes became aflame.”

From this point on she started traveling and addressing meetings in various countries in Europe to which she was invited. She soon encountered opposition both from those who did not like the fact that she spoke on her own authority and not as Krishnamurti’s messenger and from those who accused her of plagiarism.

Krishnamurti was supportive: “I know the whole game. They have played it on me. They want authority. Is not the world sick? I was afraid you would have to go through it. I was hoping that you wouldn’t have to. . . . It is not easy to stand up alone. It is extremely difficult. And yet the world needs such sannyasins, true Brahmins who would stand up alone, who would stand up for truth. You know if I had money I would give it to you. But I have none. I go everywhere as a guest—I have not even a place of my own.”

After this she met with Krishnamurti now and then, but she felt the need to spend time with him was finished, “as you only want to meet a person who is away from you.” Since 1962 she has felt Krishnamurti’s presence within her. From then on she spent her life traveling all over the world giving talks, teaching wherever she was invited, up until 1991, when she decided to remain in one place. She now prefers conducting meditation camps to giving talks, finding the extended time with people a more effective way to share her understanding.

As I sip the lemon tea she has served us, I feel slightly unsure how to interview this powerful woman, but her naturalness and warmth quickly dispel my doubts. Vimala is completely available for any questions so I plow right in.

“Vimalaji,” I say, “these days a lot of people are interested in spirituality and yet it seems that only in very few is there a radical transformation of their consciousness and of their life.”

Vimala immediately responds, “My dear friend, they do not dedicate their lives to the truth they understand. They have desire for worldly pleasure, worldly recognition. Spirituality is one of the desires. It is not the supreme priority. Immediately start living the truth you understand!

“Intellectually people may aspire for emancipation or enlightenment but emotionally they love small bondages around them. They go on weaving the network of bondages. They want to belong somewhere emotionally—to the family, to their religion. In the name of security they create these emotional loyalties and a sense of exclusive belonging, while intellectually they aspire for absolute freedom, enlightenment. How can the two go together?

“They are incompatible, and yet human beings who become sadhakas, inquirers, live a double life. They are not dishonest—I’m talking about an inner division. They feel satisfied by knowing about liberation, reading about it, imagining it. They feel satisfied about this because the word ‘liberation’ has its own intoxication, the emotional feel about the meaning of the word has an intoxication. And they live by that intoxication. But there is no factual content. So this inner division causes the pathetic phenomenon that in the evening of their lives, their hands are empty. They only have the shells of words with them, not the inner substance of liberation.”

Her unequivocal words stop me short. They have the ring of truth, spoken by someone who is deeply intimate with the actual condition of human beings.

“What can a person do if they recognize this divided condition as themselves?” I ask, eager to find out what solution she has for this fundamental issue.

“One has to educate oneself. So first one discovers the division inside. Then, to eliminate the division, purification through education has to take place, because impurity is the only imbalance. Educate and sensitize and refine and purify the biological and the psychological aspects of our being—then I think the inner division disappears.” She suggests that seekers devote a minimum of three, and preferably four, hours each day to their spiritual practice.

We move on to the subject of attachment and I remark that often people can have an understanding of the truth and still remain strongly attached to certain things. Vimala stops me in midstream.

“If attachment cannot be dissolved by the understanding of truth, that understanding is only verbal. If you have had that, how can there be attachment?”

I pursue my point to clarify the matter. “I’ve heard you speak of all attachment just dropping away effortlessly when one understands the truth, but it often happens that someone has had some genuine understanding or realization of the truth and yet the totality of the attachment, all the conditioning, does not drop away immediately and completely.”

“Never mind,” says Vimala, brushing aside my objection. “Even after having understood the truth some people may cling to untruth for the sake of pleasure or security. People are afraid of living, they are afraid of dying. The intellectual aspiration for truth is there, but this fear of life and death is also there. That’s why the dropping of the attachments does not result. If that is the case then at least such a person should be conscious that there is a duality in him or her, that understanding of truth is there on one level and that attachment is also there. If there is a genuine desire that the attachment should be dissolved, eliminated, if that consciousness is there, it will work as a prick. It will keep him awake. Attachment will be there, he will act out of attachment, then he will feel sorry for it. For some time this goes on. It will be gradual. It depends on the earnestness.”

I bring up the fact that various spiritual teachings seem to view the final goal of the spiritual life as abiding in the Absolute and are then not at all concerned with the world of time and space, with relating to people. When one has discovered the limitless, how does one simultaneously live in it and relate to others and to the world?

She replies with passion, “Even after the discovery you are still there in your body, aren’t you? You have to feed it, you have to clothe it, you have to live in the world. So after the discovery, the understanding, then there is the awareness. With that awareness you behave in the limited world. Some people talk about escaping from it, withdrawing, but even after withdrawal you need a place to live.

“After the discovery of the truth—with that inner perfume of the constant awareness that life is a dance between the manifest and the unmanifest, the limited and the limitless, that which is measurable and that which is immeasurable—then you relate to both. With awareness you are related to the absolute and with your body, mind and thought you are related to the relative. Relative and absolute—there is no dichotomy, they are not opposites.

“The limited world and the absolute truth together form the wholeness of life. Life is indivisible, you cannot fragment it, you cannot divide it. So there is no problem in relating to the limited world. The crookedness, the violence—you see them as they are and you relate to them. You have to not cooperate with the violence, you have to discourage the hatred, the possessiveness, the domination. You have to encourage the sharing psychology, the attitude of cooperation, the value of friendship. By your life you do it, by living you do it.”

I ask her about living in relationship with others. Vimala has this to say: “The truth has to be lived in the movement of relationship, it can’t be lived in physical isolation. It can be appreciated, it can be talked about, but that’s not life. To live is to be related and when that truth is allowed to express itself without fear, without ambition, without the desire to assert and dominate, when the truth is allowed to flow in that movement of relationship, then there is the fulfillment that you call enlightenment. It is the consummation. It is easy to perceive the truth, it is very difficult to allow it to consummate in your life. It’s like an unconsummated marriage.” She laughs deeply and freely—whether spontaneously or because she is amused by her unusual analogy, I’m not sure.

I am interested to learn that several of her students live in her house with her and that this is a formal arrangement; they requested to live with her and she views her acceptance of them as a commitment which must be honored. “Commitments are a very precious thing—to say yes to someone, to allow someone to come and live with you. Then you have to understand the person, their likes, their dislikes, their weaknesses, their excellences.”

“Seeing the strengths and weaknesses of your students, is it part of your commitment as a teacher to respond to what you see in them?” I ask, interested to find out to what extent she is involved with students personally.

“My dear, one sees the inexhaustible potential contained in them of which they may not be aware at all. So you respond, you hit at their weaknesses so that their personality is free of that. You try to create situations where the best in them will come out. So the role of teacher and the honoring of the commitment requires that in the light of my perception I strike when striking is necessary and I cooperate where cooperation is necessary, whether they like it or not. If they don’t like it they go away, because there is no binding.

“It’s a very important question you ask, thank you. Because sometimes you have to be very strict. The purpose for which they come has to be honored. They don’t just come because they want a change of place; they come as inquirers. The relationship between the teacher and the student is something sacred. I am involved as far as correcting their imbalances is concerned. I am not involved if they cry. I just ignore their tears. If their ego is hurt, I just ignore it. I am involved to the extent that the purpose for which they come is not forgotten by them. It’s a beautiful way of living.”

I remark that while some people would appreciate this, I’m sure others wouldn’t like it.

“Some would withdraw, some would go away, that’s their right to do so. People do not like self-reliance. When I throw them back on themselves, many don’t like it, they can’t take it. They have come for security. And I say, ‘Look, if you do this, if you do that, this is the result. Now choose, make your own decision.'”

“The reflection that you’re giving reveals how truly genuine is that person’s interest in freedom,” I find myself uttering, more as a spontaneous comment than a question.

After a pause she says with gravity and feeling, “Yes, and if you come across two or three who are genuine, you have lived your life. It’s not the number that matters.”

The atmosphere in the room is vibrant. Amidst our dialogue a tangible current of meditation has come into being and the room pulsates with silence. It’s a rare experience to be with someone who is so present and available and who has such depth to share.

We discuss the value of a sangha, or community of inquirers, based on what she is speaking about. We talk about how much can be learned in such an environment, whereas on one’s own, one cannot receive an accurate reflection from others. In this way, I suggest, a spiritual community can become a very powerful vehicle for evolution.

“I would say the only one,” she says suddenly, stunning me with her absoluteness. Before I can consider the implications of this statement, she continues, “I would just go a step further because here in India, physical isolation and withdrawal have been overemphasized. Retreats and physical solitude are useful and are relevant as a process of education. They are necessary, but not as a dimension to live in.”

I suggest that if the individuals associating together in a community genuinely have a passion for the truth then it seems to me that there’s a possibility for a different dimension of relationship—it’s not just people getting together to escape something or to prop each other up because they are not strong enough to face life.

“That’s right,” she continues with passion. “If inquirers and explorers get together and begin to live together, then one presence fertilizes another presence. You’re vulnerable, exposed, so you are on your toes all the time, there is no self-deception.

“Truth is not a theory, it’s a fact of life. Truth vibrates in the movement of relationship. The perfume of peace can be there when you are with others. I have spent months alone in a cave. I know what that kind of peace means. And when we sit together, the perfume of peace that we feel in togetherness is a different quality. It’s alive.

“In spirituality there is nothing to acquire, only to understand the truth and live it. When you are honestly inquiring, truth reveals itself. The ‘I’ has everything to lose, not get. And in that sacred nothingness and nobody-ness, the wholeness gets revealed. So if the inquirers, those who live together in a sangha, realize that spirituality is not an acquisitive movement but a movement of learning, then it becomes easy. A new dynamic of human relationship will be brought about by this approach to spirituality.”

The morning has passed in what seems like a few moments and I suddenly become aware of the surroundings, of the bright sunlight glancing on the walls of the small room. I realize how enthralled I have been and looking over to my companion, I sense that this is not just my experience. What Vimala Thakar has just been speaking about—the perfume of peace that can be felt in togetherness—is literally true and palpable. And it most definitely feels alive.

Here is the companion interview The Challenge of Emptiness conducted by Shanti Adams for EnlightenNnext.

Here is a PDF of Vimala Thakar’s book On An Eternal Voyage.

In 2006, my wife and I met Vimala Thakar in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, India.  You can read my accounting of the meeting here in A Cup of Tea with Vimala Thakar.

Observation, Emptiness and Dhyan – Vimala Thakar

What is involved in being an observer of the stillness?

When we sit in silence what do we do? We sit and observe the voluntary and involuntary activities of the body and mind.  Slowly the voluntary activities come to an end, but the involuntary activities we have inherited from birth, from our family, religion, race, nationality -which fill the mind – go on, and we sit and observe their unfoldment.

Since we are used to working all the time we may find it difficult at first to sit quiet, or the body may fall asleep due to accumulated fatigue. If it happens it is desirable to rest the body for a few days till it is fresh again. While you sit in silence, thoughts will arise, as the mind has been working for 24 hours. The thoughts cannot be suppressed nor can they be thrown away anywhere, you can only watch them, not naming them as good or bad. Then you are free from the roles of an experiencer and an actor, you enter into the state of an observer of non-reactional attention.

As soon as the mind begins moving and says: “I like” or “I dislike” what it sees, there is a disturbance, a burdening of the mind and the role of the observer is lost and you are once more immersed into the roles of an experiencer and actor. If you do not react to the thoughts you are observing, if they no longer have the power to elicit any reaction from you then they will subside of their own accord.

Effects of observation in relationships

We have to extend this attitude of observation in relationships. Once the observer state is awakened it changes relationships. It is a tremendous energy that is awakened. When observation becomes a continuous state throughout the day, then:
(1) There is no self-deception. We do not hide anything from ourselves. There is nothing left as subconscious or unconscious it being all revealed in observation. There is now only the conscious level.
(2) We stop deceiving others or presenting a different image of ourselves to others. The seeing of what is, without justification or condemnation shatters the image. We now have the courage to live and be what we are.
(3) We become aware of all that is happening within us, of the different emotions arising within us, for example if we begin to get angry we are aware of it and so the grip of anger loosens its hold over us.
(4) We recognise and admit our mistakes; asking for forgiveness immediately, thus freeing the mind from the burden of residue.
(5) Through observation thoughts subside, hence the strain and pressure they cause on the neurological and chemical systems is also lifted. It is this tension that brings about anti-social behaviour.
(6) Pain and pleasure are not taken further then the present moment; thus no grudges or attachments are formed. The art of living is to live completely in the moment, not carrying any residue over to next incident, person or day.

Emptiness

First we sat to observe our thoughts, which not being unlimited subside after some time. When they subside there is an awareness of the emptiness within. There is a dimension of emptiness, like there is a dimension of time and space. When we touch the dimension of emptiness and stay steady in it, nothing happens, there is only emptiness. The mind is then afraid, for it has not been educated to live in that motionlessness. When there is functionlessness of the “I consciousness”, the “I” feels as if it is dying, there is fear and one wants to return to the mind, to more familiar grounds. The first touch of emptiness is like death but there is not an experiencing of emptiness, there is no one to experience it; the “I” and its functional roles not being there any more, even the observer is not necessary any more. There is only a consciousness that this is emptiness and after some time even that goes.

To surrender all activity to the emptiness requires courage. Man must be able to stick it out and not to run away from this state, he must be able to digest it. After all, what is there to be afraid of? It is a fact of the organic Reality of Life. It is a phase that does not last but it comes in life and if man stays patiently with it, it will leave him as it arose.

We are in the dimension of silence, of space. In this state there is nothing to experience, nothing to gain, nothing to see, there is only emptiness. Whenever there is work to do, you do it, when someone comes before you, you respond, and when there is no need to act then the emptiness within becomes the abode of the “I consciousness”. The home is no longer the mind but silence. One lives in silence all the time. One remains steady in the emptiness.

Dhyan

From the attitude of an actor, of an experiencer we moved into the attitude of an observer. From the state of observation we moved into the dimension of silence. And from silence we move into the dimension of dhyan. We shall see what dhyan is and what dhyan is not.

The light or energy within us works in many different ways and can be utilised in many different ways. Some people develop this energy by developing the powers of the mind, or the powers of concentration or psychic powers, but all these are activities and not dhyan. You can awaken energies in the body but those who want to know what Reality is are not attracted or interested in such powers.

Dhyan is not an activity but a state of being, a dimension of being. It is a state of motionlessness where the ego is dissolved and you have let it be dissolved, where there is no experiencing but only a state of non-knowing, non-doing. Some have described it as the dark night of the soul. There is no tension at all in this state; the space within is being activated. It is a very delicate state that has to be looked after. You need to be alone then and need time to adjust to it.

In the dimension of dhyan you have let the activities of the mind come to an end. The conditioned energy of the mind is quiet. The unconditioned part of the energy, which is within and without, now begins to work. There is an awakening of the Perceptive Intelligence. There is a new freshness and ecstasy. Universal Consciousness has taken over. The mystics have called it the marriage of the individual and the cosmic consciousness and in India it is described as the union of Shiva and Shakti.

This is a new dimension and in this state it is difficult to function in society for some time but after a period of adjustment the individual can live in society, the difference will be that he will live in a state of egolessness. He does not want or expect anything from others or from society. There is a divine indifference, there is so much joy within that he needs nothing from outside or from anyone. Living is its own fulfilment.

There is no centre or circumference of the mind ever to come back. Since there is no centre or ego that desires things, there are no reactions of likes and dislikes but only a response to need. Nobody can make him unhappy though he will be affected by the unhappiness of others. There is a difference between suffering and sorrow. Suffering is a reaction of the ego, which is always fragmentary. In sorrow events are seen in the context of whole humanity and the response is to the totality of life.

One of the by-products of the state of dhyan is that fearlessness is awakened. Fearlessness is very different from bravery. Bravery is an attribute of the mind, which can be and has been cultivated by the state, religion and family for their own purpose, but it is an attribute that can also be lost. Once fearlessness is awakened it can never be extinguished, fear no longer enters the mind. Fearlessness is awakened when man has faith either in his own understanding or has faith in the Universal Intelligence.

The mind obtains knowledge by grasping ideas. If this knowledge is not lived it becomes a burden. But if it is lived in relationship then the knowledge gets converted into understanding. Knowledge can be forgotten but not understanding. Nothing is as sacred as your own understanding. You should start walking in the light of your understanding no matter how small it may be. Faith in one’s own understanding awakens fearlessness and it brings about choiceless action.

-Vimala Thakar

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The Vertical Ascendance of a Sadhaka – Vimala Thakar

The following dialog took place between Vimala Thakar and Yoga teachers from all over the world in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India on the 11th of September, 2000.

Question:  What are the most difficult obstacles that a sadhaka has to overcome during his spiritual path?

It becomes very difficult to break the silence and touch the space with words; words feel very shy to encroach upon the emptiness of silence.  The science of consciousness, atma vidya has been the field of study, investigation, exploration, experimentation and verification through the act of living in Ancient India.  Naturally all the literature about atma vidya, adhyatma -Spirituality is in ancient Sanskrit language, so the students of yoga come across the Sanskrit words and terms when they study Yoga Sutras or Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga etc.

You have used the term “sadhaka” in your collective question.  But the investigation does not begin with sadhana.  Investigation begins first on the theoretical, academic, verbal level.  One has to know with the help of words about what one is going to do as sadhana.  .

This phase of investigation, this study through travelling, through reading books, through seminars, you may call it intellectual sadhana, but we call it jignasya the urge to enquire, and one who does that is jignasu.

When a person living In Europe and America or outside Asia comes to know through scriptures on Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or even Islam, when the person comes to know that there are different ways of living, where freedom from the prison-house of thought and from the clutches of the mind is possible, then the desire for liberation is born in the heart.  When he knows through that verbal investigation that a different way of living is possible, that people have lived that way, that it is possible for anyone and everyone to be liberated from the grip of the mind and the prison-house of thought structure, then the desire for liberation is born in the heart.  The desire for liberation is called mumuksha – the desire for moksha.   Moksha is liberation.  Mukti, moksha, these are the Sanskrit terms.  One who has the desire for moksha is called mumushu.

So the jignasu becomes mumukshu.  First he only wanted to know; now he says I have known that It IS possible, so why should I continue living as a slave of the thought and the mind.  If there is a consciousness beyond, if there is a life beyond, well let me explore.  So jignasu becomes a mumukshu; a person charged with the flame of enquiry, of exploration.  So he turns to those who have taken the pilgrimage, those who have followed the path of liberation and freedom.  He comes across such persons, sees their lives and he says that I want to educate myself in that way of freedom, in that life style of freedom, so he becomes a sadhaka.

A sadhaka is one who launches upon the extensive project of education, learning, discovery.  Sadhana is the process of education, the process of learning, a personal discovery of truth.  One who does that sadhana is called sadhaka.  So jignasu; mumukshu; sadhaka.  When the process of education is gone through at the physical level, at the verbal level, at the mental level, at cerebral level, and in the movement of daily relationships, then he becomes a siddha.  The education is completed, now it is mature.  Sadhana – sadhaka and then siddha.

Because you have asked the question and have used the term sadhaka one must know the background.  Sadhana, sadhaka is the third phase.  After verbal investigation, comes the phase where one is charged with the desire for liberation from mind and thought.  If that desire is not there, if the urge is not there, then one does not become a Sadhaka.  The Sadhana is for mukti, moksha, liberation, enlightenment.  That is the top priority; that is the first priority.  The person is willing to do anything and everything for that discovery of freedom and living in freedom.  So the Sadhaka is the student of life, learning and educating himself.  If the urge for liberation is not there, then you may do yoga asanas and pranayama for 20 years, they will give you health, they will give you symmetrical body, it is a physical and cultural education, very necessary -but that by itself does not lead you to freedom from the mind.  Yamah-Niyamah will give you a disciplined life, even pratyahara can give you a disciplined life.  There will be a disciplined life at the physical level, at the verbal level.  You will be speaking Truth -Sat yam, you will be non-violent –ahimsa, there will be shaucham– cleanliness at the physical, the mental and the verbal level and modesty, humility.  So the yamahs and niyamahs will create a very orderly, disciplined person.  Asanas, pranayama will change the quality of physical life and bring about a different freshness in body-brain complex but that by itself is not the totality of sadhana, it is only a part.

Many people have a misconception when they turn to Yoga; they think that yoga asanas, pranayama and yamah – niyamah, will naturally lead them to dhyanam and samadhi.  But that is a different education because with yamah- niyamah, asana-pranayama, pratyahara, dharana you have to exercise the physical, the verbal, the mental, the cerebral, you have to make an effort, you have to create an order in the chaos, in the disorder.  The “You”, the centre, the monitor is there, the method and techniques of doing away with disorder and creating order:  that is there.  Yamahs and niyamahs give you direction for the asanas, which must be done correctly, a Mantra has to be pronounced correctly, in the proper accent, intonation, punctuation, and articulation.  Even in dharana, the science and the art of concentration, there is still something to learn – concentrate on the breath, concentrate on the movement of breath, concentrate on an idol, concentrate on the flame of a candle and so on, there is the centre, the knowledge, the direction of effort, the methodology of effort.

People find it easy up to there.  Education can go on smoothly up to the step of dharana, if the person is really sincere and really very serious about changing the way of living.  It is an alternative way of living.  It is an alternative culture.  It is an alternative dynamics of relationship with your body, with nature, with human beings with non-human species.  It is a holistic change in the way of living, up to that it is comparatively easy and many serious, sincere students of spirituality in the various countries of the world have taken the journey up to there, but then comes the point of dhyanam or meditation.

You say what is the most difficult obstacle?  I will not call it obstacle, but a difficult point that you have to cross.  If you convert it into an obstacle it can become an obstacle, otherwise it is something that you have to cross, to go over.  What happens is, up to Dharana, the ‘I’, the self, the me, the Ego, the Monitor whatever you call it, can assert itself, can make an effort, can see the result, the product, the result of its effort in time, it can even manipulate the result, so it is satisfied -I have done this, I have progressed.  And naturally through yoga asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, the dormant energies in the body, in the biological organism, in the psychological structure which were not tapped before, they are stimulated.  The manifestation of those activised powers is called vibhuti.  Siddhi, vibhuti.  So up till there, the enthusiasm of the ‘l’, the ‘Me’ is tremendous, because it is doing something, it is getting something, it can measure it, people can see what you have achieved and you can teach it to others.  But then comes the point of dhyanam, where the mind and the brain are to be educated in relaxation of all movement – that is the difficult point.  The body has to be steady, the speech has to go back into its source, and the mental movement and the movement of the brain have to voluntarily discontinue.  You cannot make them stop, because you are a part of that, you are a part of the past, of the thought structure, the conditionings, you are one of it, you are its product so you can not change it, the ‘You’, the monitor which up till now has been very active has to voluntarily discontinue its movement.

The difficult part comes now of educating the mind and the brain to voluntarily discontinue its movement in every direction.  If you tell the mind there is nothing to know, nothing to experience, nowhere to go, no experiencing, it runs back into the past.  Wants to chew into the memories of the past pleasure, of the past pain, or it wants to jump towards the future that is unborn, that is not here.  It does not give up easily its addiction to motion.  It has been moving, changing itself, changing others, getting something.  It has been busy with the acquisitive movement- acquire knowledge, acquire money, acquire experience, acquire powers, and people acknowledge you, you get social respectability and you can earn money by teaching them.

This part of self-education is a very tough part, because there is no doing.  You have to be with yourself whether you sit down, you stand up, and you walk.  No books, no reading, no knowing, no experiences.  One requires tremendous patience with the cerebral organ, which has been sharpened.  It has been made very sharp and sophisticated and you have purified it through your Yamah -Niyamah etc.  It is very sensitive:  one hundred times more sensitive than any of your electronic gadgets.  So when you sit down with yourself or spend some days with yourself, you notice that immeasurable velocity, that tremendous, fantastic momentum with which the thoughts come and go, the emotions come, the memories come up and the Seer has to be there just seeing it, not looking at it.  Looking is the activity of the monitor, the ‘I’, the ‘Me’, the mind.  Seeing is the energy principle of your life.  You don’t see because you want to see, but because you can’t help it.  It IS an involuntary action.  It is not a movement like thinking, feeling, willing.  It is an instantaneous action.  So be with oneself, be with the total human past contained in your body, not even to watch it, to observe it, but just be in the state of seeing.  The seeing, the hearing goes on but you are not listening.  You listen to something when you have a motivation, but hearing goes on, you can’t help it, if you are awake, the auditory nerves respond to the sound, the optical nerves respond to the light, to the shape, to the colour of the objects.

To be in that austere state of seeing is the toughest part.  When the seen, that is the past, the known, the conditioned gets exposed to that seeing energy it gets exhausted, that is to say, the seen energy is not unlimited, it is vast, it is gigantic, but it has had a beginning and it can have an end.  One needs patience in educating oneself for being in the state of seeing without looking, without listening, without comparing, without evaluating, without passing a value judgement on what is seen.  Nobody will know, but you go on doing that inwardly.  So no value judgement, no comparison, no seeking pleasure out of it, no feeling pain out of it.  The seeing is unrelated to that which is seen.  It is not a relationship, it is co-existence of the seeing energy and the seen energy -the drashta, drashtutvam and drishya.

The body, the movement of the pranas, your breathing, the movement of the mind, the movement of the brain -all these are seen, they are not your existential essence, they are not the essence of your being.  The seeing energy is the essence, which you might call atman and chaitanya.  You might give a variety of names to it, It is just an energy, where seeing and understanding are rolled into one.  It is a perceptive sensitivity.  Looking is an activity, a joint activity of the mind and the optical nerves, but seeing is unrelated to that which is seen, because one did not want to see it, wish to see it, expect to see it, it is there, therefore it is seen.  That is the toughest part, but if that is gone through, then the seen and the seeing energy subside into their sources and there is maunam or silence or emptiness.

So the seeing and the seen are replaced by infinite silence of emptiness.   It is still tougher to be in that state if at all a sadhaka has patience and humility to be in the state.  Nothing happens, no experiences, you come out of silence after 2 or 3 hours and somebody asks you” what were you doing?”  “I don’t know, nothing”. But you were sitting there with your closed eyes for 3 hours, what happened?”  “Nothing.”  “What did you get out of it?”  “Nothing.”

The immeasurableness and indescribable-ness of that emptiness!  How can you describe emptiness? You can describe an object.  So the ‘I’ consciousness, the Ego that had gone voluntarily into discontinuity jumps back.  It wants to claim and say “I have had an experience of silence”.  The ‘I’ can never have that experience, the ‘I’ can have experience of quietness, of abstinence from speaking, it can have an experience of non-motion but silence is something that cannot be experienced.  Nothing happens to the chemical or metabolic or nervous system.

What is the obstacle on the path of a sadhaka? – This nothingness and nobody-ness.  To go through that period of solitary silence is difficult especially for those who are living in big cities, they have jobs, they have families.  Unless they move away from their working place and family atmosphere for some time this education from the doer, the experiencer to the Seer, from the Seer into the Silence and then into Meditation, this education cannot happen.  Devoting an hour a day while living in the family, while working at a job is easy, that can be done, but for the revolution to happen, for the mutation to take place, the Silence has to crystallise.  It is only when the silence crystallises as the normal dimension of consciousness that the mutation, the quantum jump into the state of dhyanam occurs.  It is not the result of any human effort.  You cannot bring it about as the result of your action.  It occurs, it happens if this period of being merged into or being immersed into the ocean of Emptiness is gone through.

You may call it in your language the most difficult obstacle.  As I see it, it is a tough phase in education, because it is going beyond mind, it is going beyond brain into another dimension of consciousness -dhyanajam anashayam (Patanjali Yoga Sutras IV.  6). Out of meditation is born a chitta which has no content of thought, emotion, feeling, which has no past, which has no conditionings. The prakrit chitta disappears with meditation and dhyanajam chittam anashayam emerges.  Chitta, which is emptiness, emptiness as a dimension of consciousness, gets born.  In the beginning it lasts for say few hours and when you are busy in movement of relationships you feel it is slipping out, because that is a period of puberty from one dimension to the other -a touch and go, it slips back into the mental or the cerebral, it becomes aware of it, again gets back into the mental or the cerebral, it becomes aware of it, again gets back into the meditative dimension and then there is a growth into samadhi, the dimension of invincible equipoise, invincible peace, invincible relaxation.  No action can damage the relaxation.  No speaking for hours can affect the inner state of silence and no relationships which one has to go through in society can even touch the solitude of the consciousness.

So it seems to me that the tough period begins in sadhana or the difficult period or obstacle period, begins when one is busy educating oneself in dhyanam.

There is a very well known sadhaka poet in India, he is still living, he wrote to me that it is better to be in the dimension of the known where you know how to handle thought, emotions, reactions, defence mechanism, patterns of behaviour.  It is much better to be there and safer to be there, than to get transported into the unknown where everything is unknowable.  So the idea of psychic security, by which one has lived, has a strong hold over one.  Even in the study of Yoga, in the subconscious there is that sense of security with the known – the known place, the known people, and the known activities

Meditation –dhyanam is a romance with the unknown.  I do not know if I have responded to your question, but this being the last meeting of this year, I thought:  let me share with you the journey from jignasa to sadhana – sadhana as a process of education –self-education, mutual education, group education.  How you do it is secondary, but it is an educational process.  Not academic education, which gives you a degree and a job at the end of it.  At the end of this education there is the maturity of samadhi, it is the consummation of human growth.  It is not an acquisitive movement but it is a movement of constant discovery of the different nuances of truth and reality, a discovery of the different nuances and shades of that cosmic energy which is playing even in your body.

-Vimala Thakar

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Explosion – Vimala Thakar

EXPLOSION

On the 14th August I had another interview with Krishnamurti. While I was waiting for him his hostess was kind enough to come and have a word with me.

‘Do you understand what Krishnaji says?’ She asked.

I said: ‘I feel I do – If I may say so. But everyone can understand if one wants to, can’t one? There is nothing difficult what he says is so simple.’

Krishnaji came out in a little while and led me to a room where we settled down for a serious talk. Here are the notes of our conversation.

Vimala Thakar: I am sharing with you my experience. I have decided after great hesitation to tell you about the present state of my mind because it concerns you in a way…

Krishnamurti: You need not hesitate at all. You can say anything to me – for or against. Do you understand?

V. I have told you about the invasion of a new awareness, irresistible and uncontrollable.

I have told you how it has swept away everything. Now – this has something to do with that healing. If it had come independently I would not have felt as I feel today. If the mind had come by it, say, while listening to you, I would not have felt what I feel today.

Today I feel that the two are related. And I feel deeply indebted to you for both.

That feeling of indebtedness makes the mind heavy and uncomfortable. Your talks have helped me and I am deeply thankful to you for the talks.

But my love for you was never burdened with a sense of indebtedness before. Today it is.

K. Wait a bit. Who told you that the two are related?

V. No one. I feel it.

K. Your feeling may be wrong. Perhaps you are confusing the two. You don’t owe me a damn thing in the world. Do you understand it? The healing has happened. It has taken two persons – you and me – for it to happen. Why not let it remain at that? It is very simple.

V. Are you sure that the two are not related?

K. Yes. Quite sure. You have been listening to the talks. You have a serious mind. The talks were sinking deep into your being. They are operating all the time. One day you realized the truth.

What have I done to it? Look here- you were walking in a forest. You came across another person.

He said: ‘If you walk this way you might arrive earlier.’ You walked. You arrived. You thanked the person. It is as simple as that.

Why should you feel you owe something to me? Why make an issue of it?

V. I can’t tell you why. But I do feel obliged to you.

K. All right why do you feel disturbed over it?

V. Because my affection feels hurt by that. Obligation and indebtedness seem to have polluted love and friendship. Our very relationship seems to be changing.

K. Goodness me. Our relationship need not and should not change. It should be as free as it was before. I wonder if you are frightened…

V. Yes – Krishnaji. I feel a kind of awe, a kind of fear…

K. That’s the crux. There is nothing to feel afraid of. I have not done anything to you. I don’t know how the healing takes place. I know as much as you do. Do you understand? Shake this off. I shall be sorry if our relationship is affected by this. Vimalaji, the earth was ready to receive the rains. She has received with full abandon. No wonder there is new life.

V. So be it Krishnaji. Let me only confess that this sudden invasion does baffle me. It is not due to anything that I have done. As if it is not related to me as an effect is related to its cause. It has descended with an irresistible force. The intensity and the depth of the force know neither increase nor decrease.

K. It happens. Why not watch it?

I prepared to leave. Krishnamurti knew that I was leaving Gstaad for Zurich the same evening. So he said:

‘I hope to find you in excellent health when we meet in India. Have a pleasant journey.’

While I was walking back to the hotel I met Mr. B. who was practicing as a psychiatrist in New York. He had come all the way to attend the talks. He was putting up in the same hotel and we had met several times during the fortnight.

B. Vimala, I have been shaken all over by Krishnamurti’s talks. We had learnt that the unconscious is indestructible. Krishnamurti says: ‘It can drop away.’ I had learned that it has taken a million years for the human mind and the brain to develop to its present state. Krishnamurti says: ‘You can jump out of this mind and brain.’ It is fantastic and incredible.

V. It is neither incredible nor fantastic. He is not presenting a theory or an idea which you could accept or reject. He communicates his experience. He is a challenge to your science of psychology.

Why should not a group of you take it up for scientific investigation? Why not make a research into whether the conscious and the unconscious can be done away with?

Krishnamurti is no fool. He knows what he says and he says what he means.

B. Do you agree with Krishnamurti, that the unconscious can be destroyed completely?

V. I am not a student of psychology. And there is nothing to agree with. I see that what he says is true.

B. Excuse me for being personal. Have you destroyed it?

V. You can’t destroy it, my dear. It gets destroyed. One sees that it has dropped. That is all.

I left Gastaad in the evening and by midnight I was in Zurich. Next day I wrote two letters, one to my father and one to Krishnamurti.

To my father I wrote:

‘Everything has dropped away. A tremendous tempest has swept away everything with one stroke. It is not ‘The cosmic evolution become conscious of itself.’ It is life anew. A journey wither I know not! Why, I know not! No excitement! No enthusiasm. But an intense flame of passion is consuming the whole being. I wish I could describe the strength of integrity which makes me walk now fearlessly. I wish I could describe how I witnessed the ego being torn to pieces and being thrown to the winds. I wish I could communicate what this denudation is! Or may one call it ex-centration? The center of thinking getting dissolved into nothingness.

The words might sound familiar. Perhaps you would say Krishnamurti – type terms and phrases. But you are well aware that borrowed phrases cannot transmit life. Nor can they enable one to see the reality. They cannot give you the moral courage to knock down and pull down your house in which you have lived until now.

Only truth liberates. Only truth transmits fresh life. Truth breathes innocence into you.

Destruction and creation mingle in that breath.’

To Krishanmurti I wrote:

‘I am not making ‘an issue’ of the event. I am trying to understand it in relation to total life. You may tell me, ‘ It is simple.’ My mind looks upon it as something strange. Is it simple to see the total mind being born anew? If one who has suddenly witnessed it happening, feels overwhelmed, would you call it an emotional disturbance?

Let me assure you that it is not the personal aspect (It’s happening in my life) that overwhelms me. Life is neither yours nor mine. Life is life. This phenomenon comes as a challenge to the medical science and to psychology. Does it not?

It is true that I have been listening to your talks for five years. I knew that they were sinking deep into the very being. But surely, that could not cause this sudden explosion. Understanding does not explode; nor does love explode. Or do they? Not that I am sorry for it. Not that I am excited about it? Far from it. I am watching everything with a passionate interest.

I do not think I shall attend anymore talks. I would love, however, to come and see you when you are in India. I would love to sit quietly with you, provided you do not mind sparing some time for a person who wants to see you without any purpose whatsoever.

Thank you very deeply indeed for everything I have received through you.’

After spending three weeks in Zurich I left for India by plane. I was in good cheer. I was relaxed and happy. There was intense alertness to understand every movement of life. Life had fanned a glowing flame of passionate interest.

One could call that state of deep attention an absolutely new experience of meditation. I am sorry it is not quite correct to call it an experience or a state. Both have a beginning and an end. In my case, however, I did not know how it came about; nor had I any idea whether it would continue forever whether it would discontinue the next moment.

-Vimala Thakar

From On an Eternal Voyage, p. 31-34

The entire book can be downloadable here.

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Growing Into Silence – Vimala Thakar

Growing into Silence

The voluntary cessation, non-action of movement, can become possible if the brain, the cerebral organ, is not a restless, disorderly, chaotic brain.

Orderliness

One doesn’t have to begin to learn how to be silent, but one has to begin with learning to function in an orderly, clear, unconfused way.  Every cerebral movement has to be clear, precise and accurate.

Accuracy, precision, is the breath of orderliness.

So I learn to be precise and accurate.

And in learning to be precise and accurate I learn to be totally present with everything that I do.

Eliminating Reactions

One will have to learn to reduce the area and the duration of reactions seeing the futility and seeing the harmfulness of this constant game of reacting, evaluating, comparing and judging.

You reduce your rapport and contact with the past:  the memory, the knowing, the conditioning, the motivations, the defences.

If one would be with nature, even half the time that one is with human beings, machines and gadgets, there would be an opportunity to enter into a non-reactional observation, a non-reactional attention.

Then the brain would get some rest.  When you are with nature:  the birds, the lakes, the sunsets, the beautiful moonlight, when you are with the aloneness of the woods – then the comparative evaluating process has no scope.

The motivations and defence-mechanisms become absolutely irrelevant and meaningless when you are with nature.

The reactional pattern has no function, and yet there is observation.  So the cerebral organ grows into a new faculty of non-reactional sensitivity.

Act On Your Understanding

Never argue with one’s own understanding.

The whisper of intelligence is always there, whatever you do.

If you create a time lag between the whisper of intelligence and understanding in you and your action, then you are preventing the cerebral organ from growing into a new dimension.  When you argue with intelligence, when you postpone acting according to understanding then there is confusion, the brain gets confused.

The voice of understanding, the voice of intelligence has an insecurity about it.  How do you know that it is the right thing?

So we tend to ignore it.  Instead we accept authority.  We conform.

But the brain cannot be orderly, competent, accurate and precise if you do not listen to it, if you have no respect.  We are so busy with the outside world, and its compulsions, that the world that is inside us does not command that respect and reverence, that care and concern from us.

So one has to be a disciple of one’s own understanding, look upon that understanding as the master.

Sometimes one may commit a mistake, it might be the whim of the ego and we might mistake the whim, the wish of the ego for the voice of silence and intelligence, but that we have to discover.    Unless you commit mistakes, how do you learn to discriminate between the false and the true?  In learning there is bound to be a little insecurity, a possibility of committing mistakes.  Why should one be terribly afraid of committing mistakes?

So instead of accepting the authority of habits and conditionings, while one is moving one watches, and when there is a suggestion, a whisper from within, from one’s own intelligence, one does not neglect, ignore, or insult that.

To eliminate the time lag between understanding and action is the way to grow into spontaneity.

Keeping the Body and Brain Sensitive, Alert and Sharp

It is necessary to keep the body sensitive, alert and sharp, to feed it and to clothe it correctly, properly; to give it a chance to go through exercises which will mobilize not only the muscles, but also the nerves and be careful that the body does not become sluggish; to feed it correctly – not over- nor under-feeding it; to allow it to have sleep, necessary for its health – not to over- nor under-sleep; not to expose it to too much brooding, worrying, anxiety, which are impotent ways of wasting energy; not entering into excesses of indulgence and not denying and suppressing in the name of austerity, religion or discipline;  because the cerebral organ, the brain is woven into this biological structure.

It is very important, because in a sluggish body, in a lazy body, you can’t have a sharp, sensitive, alert brain, which would voluntarily go into non-action.

Self-education is vitally necessary in order to enable the cerebral organ to function in an orderly, quiet way.  When there is order, there is a quietness; an orderly person hardly gets excited.  It is disorder that leads to excitement, enthusiasm, depression which is the other side of excitement, passivity which is the obverse of enthusiasm.

When one has arrived at that orderliness in daily living, in whatever one does, then only one can talk about the brain voluntarily, relinquishing the outgoing and the ingoing movement, relinquishing voluntarily the hold upon the known and the unknown, the visible and the invisible, so that the infinite could be.

Summary: Four Approaches to Growing into Silence

  • Be precise, accurate and totally present with everything that one does.
  • Expose oneself as much as one can to nature, to the universe, all that is not man-made.
  • Be a disciple of one’s own understanding.
  • Keep the body and brain sensitive, alert and sharp.

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Notes from Yoga Beyond Meditation – Vimala Thakar

Pratyahara, dharana, dhyanam, and samadhi

Pratyahara is the state of the individualised mind where the movement of memory and the movement of the senses has discontinued.  So the mind is inwardly and outwardly surrounded by space.

Pratyahara equips the mind with the capacity to bring in dharana.  It enables the mind to be in the state of dharana.

The individualised mind is held by the inner and outer space:  that is dharana.

The individualised mind in its purified form, in its purified condition is there but now all its energy is focused on the inner and outer space.  Its attentivity is related to the inner and the outer space.  It is as if enveloped in space, in emptiness, in silence.  It has not yet assimilated the state of emptiness and peace as its experience, but it is held there.

If that state of the mind is sustained, then the individualised mind converts that state of being embraced, enveloped, wrapped in peace and emptiness into an experience and that experiencing of emptiness and peace is called dhyanam.

So there is only the experiencing of space, emptiness, silence.

In this state of the experience of silence, but still in its very subtle form, in a very purified state, the individualised mind is still there.  The subtle consciousness of “I am” or “I am experiencing space”, “I am experiencing peace or silence”, “I am in the state of dhyanam meditation” is still there.

When that consciousness disappears, there is the state of samadhi.

Though it is a very subtle, harmless centre, because it is not running in the past, with the past or running outside your body it is harmless but yet it is the individualised mind, it is not yet that universal mind stuff – the drashta, the authentic seer.  There are still the thoughts “I am”, “I am experiencing meditation”, “I am in the state of meditation”.  But when that disappears, when that gets dissolved, there is the state of samadhi.

Beyond meditation, beyond dhyanam, is the dissolution of the individualised mind.

So samadhi is now a new dimension:  in that state of meditation the sense of “I am” totally gets wiped out – the sense of “I am experiencing meditation” – that last segment gets wiped out.

Now the silence and the space have penetrated the sense of “I am” and dissolved it – that is samadhi.

-Vimala Thakar

From Yoga Beyond Meditation

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Mutation of Mind – Vimala Thakar

The conscious mind, realizing its own limitations, becoming aware that it hasn’t got any other channel or groove to function in, can become spontaneously quiet.

When all this investigation creates a humility in the conscious mind, and an awareness of its own limitations, awareness of the fortress in which it is imprisoned and which it cannot transcend, then that humility does create a silence in the mind.  This is not the silence of suppression or repression, compulsion or paralysis.  It is not an induced silence, whether that inducement comes through ideas, ideals, emotions or chemicals.

The immensity of the contents of the unconscious brings about a sense of humility in the conscious mind.  And a silence of the conscious mind flows out of that humility.  The next step is not going to be taken by the conscious mind at all.

We are saying that the very awareness of its own limitations can bring about a state of silence.

Then a direct communion with reality becomes possible.  In fact, that state defies verbalization.  The realm of the unknown defies verbalization.  Self-knowing is the essence.  Self-knowing is the maturity which one has to attain.  So we have been struggling with the limitations of the mind, but for the struggle we employ the mind.  Struggling against the limitations of the mind by employing the mind and exercising the will is not the right way perhaps.

When you realize that the mind is not equal to the task of communing with reality, the mind relaxes in silence.

It needs alertness; it needs intensity, which we lack.  Our energy is so much scattered, that this inquiry of truth becomes one of the many desires.  When one starts living every moment in the light of that inquiry, then the illumination dawns upon the heart. This creative understanding dawns upon the human heart, when the inquiry of truth becomes the top priority; when it becomes the all-consuming flame, in the light of which one lives.  It is not a pastime, a hobby, an amusement.  (The challenge needs to be formulated, then realised, then begun.)

The problem is how to break away completely from the conditioning in which the mind has been cultivated.

Truth (requires) the right approach, start, foundation.  We must become free from the urge for security; acquisition, accumulation, preservation is a hindrance to this transformation.  Emotions, feelings, thoughts and memories are mechanical actions, inevitable reflex actions according to conditioning.  The mind names, identifies, compares, judges on the basis of memory.

Mind becomes silent, temporarily, only when it is confronted with something which it cannot interpret, something unprecedented.  Realizing its own limitations, understanding that truth and reality are something very vast, immeasurable by the human mind and that the mystery of life cannot be discovered by ideas and concepts, the mind becomes silent.

The mind could understand its own nature, find out the conflicts between the conscious and the unconscious; find out the impossibility of a total action on the mental plane; realize the limitations and become quiet.

Whether you try to influence the mind through ideas and concepts, or through discipline and vows, or through drugs, you are trying to stimulate artificially a state of silence.  Perhaps if we are friendly with the mind, if we watch the mind, if we understand the mind, if we let it wander, let it roam about wherever it wants, let it exhaust its momentum by wandering, without scolding, without praising, without condemning it might exhaust its momentum and arrive at the simple innocent silence.

The subconscious and the unconscious contain the known.  The implication of the words total silence is silence of the subconscious and the unconscious and the conscious.  We will have to allot some time in the beginning to sit by ourselves and find out if the mind can be silent.

All our emotions and thoughts are conditioned reflexes, reactions.

This non-identification with ones reactions … brings about a sudden change in the level of consciousness.  This non-identification with the subconscious world, non-identification with the momentum of the whole subconscious and unconscious results in creative silence.  The creative alternative is to refuse to identify oneself with the mind.  This cannot blossom in a day, if we do not know what mind is.

One has to begin with being introduced to one’s own mind.  To watch how the mind works, to watch how we live second-hand through emotions, feelings and sentiments.  How we call them our own and identify ourselves with them. To watch all this, will be the beginning of meditation.

-Vimala Thakar

From Mutation of Mind

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Prayer by Shankarcharya – Vimala Thakar

Translation & Commentary by Vimala Thakar

Pratah smarami hridi samsphura ta twam
Satchitsukham paramahansa gatim turiyam
Yat swapna jagara sushupta mavaiti nityam
Tad brahma nishkalamaham na cha bhuta sanghaha.

In the morning as I meet the dawn, I remember that my heart contains the God, the Beloved, who has not yet been defined and described. I remember that it is He who vibrates within my heart, enables me to breathe, to talk, to listen, to move. When I am thus aware, that it is He who lives and moves within me, then the three phases of consciousness, jagrat, swapna, sushupti : wakefulness, dreaming, and profound sleep, they are transcended into turiya, the fourth dimension, which is behind the wakefulness, the dream-consciousness, and the sleep-consciousness.

When I thus remember, that the underlying current behind the wakefulness, the dream, and the sleep-consciousness is He, who lives and moves within me, then that awareness gives me sat chit sukham, the flavor of the truth, the reality, and the bliss that is the nature, the basic primary nature of life.

Sat chit sukham. When I am always thus aware of the real nature of life, then I arrive at paramahansagatim turiyam. I arrive at a state of being that has been called by the ancient wise Indians “Paramahansa”, a swan that swims through the waters of duality. That is how a sanyasi is called a paramahansa, one who lives in the renunciation of that austere awareness that it is not he who lives, as separate from the universe, but that he is only an expression of the universal.

The state of paramahansa is the state where a person is aware that he is not a conglomeration of sense organs and only the five elements, but he is the nishkala Brahman, the supreme Brahman, the divinity, who has taken the dense form of a mind and a physical body.

Pratara bhajami manaso vachasam agamyam
Vacho vibhanti nikhila yadanugrahena
Ya neti neti vachanaih nirgama avochu
Tamdeva devam ajam achyutam ahuragryam

But my mind, when I am awake, needs some work to do. It cannot remain without movement. So I give it a job. “Pratara bhajami manaso” – by the mind – “vachasam agamyam” – by the mind I move. On the frontiers of the mind I give the mind a job to explore that which lies beyond its own frontiers, that which is not accessible to the word, to the speech, as well as to the mind.

My mind asks me, “How shall I do it?” And I ask the mind to travel back, through the word, to the source of the word, the sound, and find out how the sound is born. I ask my mind to travel with the breath, to go inside: with the breath to travel. That is the only way you can find out how the sound is born, because breath and sound are woven together.

All speech and all sound is a blessing of that unspoken, unstruck sound. And unless one discovers the source from which all sound is born, one shall never set oneself free from the power of the word, that intoxicates and distorts the mind; that intoxicates the mind and sweeps it off its balance.

All the Upanishads and the Vedas have been searching for that source of sound. That source of breath. They arrived only at two words: na iti, na iti: it is “not this”, it is “not this.” So even the Vedas arrive at the point where nothing can describe and define. The source can only be experienced, the source can only be perceived and understood, but never defined and described. That is how the mind becomes silent. Not because I ask it, but while it is searching for the source of its own activity it takes a dive deep into silence, where the mind becomes the no-mind, where the knowing becomes the not-knowing.

Then I understand that silence is the only speech through which life speaks, and I feel blessed when I am in that silence.

Pratarnamami tamasah param arkavarnam
Purnam sanatana padam purushottamakhyam
Yasminnidam jagadashesham ashesamurtau
Rajjuam bhujangama iva pratibhatitam vai.

But then comes the body. It wants to do something. To worship, to admire, to adore. So I give it a job. I ask my body to bow down before the light of the earth, the sun, who dispels darkness from all the corners of the earth. And I ask my body to expose itself to that darkness dispelling sun – ask it to find out how that sun enters into the body through the doors of the eyes, and through the pores of all the veins and nerves, every pore of my being. I want my body to find out which are the avenues through which the light is received.

And when the body says, “It is the eyes through which the light enters,” I say, “Find out how the eyes can see the light. Is the light outside the eyes, or is it inside?” With the help of the mind, the body travels inward, to find out the source of the light.

And it discovers that it is not a blind person who can receive the light from outside. He who has an eye can receive the light. So that which receives the light is greater than the light seen from outside.

So I arrive at the source of light within me. And the awareness of that light dispels the illusion – the illusion and the fear that a man experiences when he sees “rajo bhujangama” : when he sees a rope in the darkness and he mistakes that for a snake, a cobra. I had mistaken the rope of duality for the snake and cobra of misery and sorrow. But the light dispels the darkness and I see that the duality is only a rope that cannot bind me in any way unless I bind myself with it.

That light is the purushottam, that is sanatana – eternal. Purnam – that is perfect. The perfect eternity. The God divine. That is really my nature. I had mistaken the tensions of duality to be me, but then the light dispels all the darkness, and I get rooted back into the ajam, the aychutam – that which can never be swept off its feet. Ajam – that which was never born, and can never die. I am that.

This is the prayer composed by Shankaracharya, the majestic exponent of the philosophy of non-dualism, vedanta or advait. This was sung by Vivekananda very often, and it is really on this prayer that Vivekananda’s “Song of Sanyasin” is based, where he sings, in great ecstasy:

They know not truth who dream such vacant dreams
As father, mother, children wife and friend –
The sexless Self, whose father, whose mother is he?
The self is All in All,
None else exists, and thou art that,
Sanyasin bold, say ‘Om Tat Sat Om’.

Where seekest thou that freedom?
This world nor that can give you.
Thine only is the hand,
That holds the rope that drags thee on.
Then cease lament, let go thy hold!
Sanyasin bold! Say ‘Om Tat Sat Om!’

-Vimala Thakar
Hunger Mountain, MA, October, 1972

Here is a link to an audio recording of Vimalaji chanting part of the above prayer.   Prayer by Shankarcharya – Vimala Thakar

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The Challenge of Emptiness – Vimala Thakar

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.

Vimala Thakar

At the time of this interview Shanti Adams was 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.

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Here you can download a PDF copy of one of Vimala Thakar’s books On An Eternal Voyage.