The first time I heard the name Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was on a bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu. My friend Randy, (who had traveled with me to India and Nepal from Madagascar), and I were trekking on the Annapurna route and reached the point where we decided to turn around. Ben and his girlfriend Kathy (actually I’m not sure of their names but will refer to them as Ben and Kathy from here on out), were coming down the path and said that they had run into snow. Being ill-equipped, without even sleeping bags, the decision was choiceless. We all spent the night in a teahouse.
There seemed to be some tension between Ben and Kathy. They were both involved in Tibetan Buddhist practice but it seemed that Ben was keener than Kathy and this was causing some friction.
On the bus ride back to Kathmandu, Ben and I sat together and Randy and Kathy sat together with a growing chemistry. Ben told me about his experience doing a Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreat at the Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu. Randy and I had visited Kopan a week or so earlier with another friend from Madagascar and had the good fortune to have a cup of tea with the head Lama, Lama Yeshe. He was a very sweet man and enormously generous. But as I explained to Ben, I wasn’t finding myself attracted to the Tibetan Buddhist practice. In fact, the words that I heard come out of my mouth as we talked were, “I’m looking for something more universal and more personal.” For one thing, it was the limitation of the “ism” in Buddhism that turned me away. My own intuitive spiritual sky was wide open and did not want to be confined into a container, however much I respected the teachings.
Ben told me that I should pay a visit to the ashram of a guru in India named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and proceeded to give me the address. Ben had met one of Rajneesh’s sannyasins recently while he was on a visa run and so was visiting Nepal in order to return to India with a new visa. This sannyasin named Devanand had impressed him and what he heard about Rajneesh interested him but he was quite immersed in the Tibetan Buddhist dharma. So I put the piece of paper with the address away in my wallet. The bus ride was a few hours and so Ben and I had quite a long chat. He was a sincere practitioner, perhaps I thought a bit too serious, but regardless we had a very nice connection.
When we arrived back in Kathmandu, both Ben and Kathy returned to Kopan to continue their practice and Randy and I stayed in a guest house. Randy and I were intending on spending a couple more weeks in Kathmandu and so found a room in a private house. It was a lovely situation because the house had a walled garden and so offered a retreat from the daily busy-ness of the city. This house was closer to the Tibetan Swayambhu Monastery which we liked to visit.
We had learned that a very important Tibetan Buddhist teacher was coming to Kathmandu soon to perform an Empowerment Ceremony and this event was to take place at Swayambhu. I wasn’t really sure what an Empowerment Ceremony was but it sounded interesting. Unfortunately, we also learned that it was only open to practicing Buddhists.
The day of the event I spent meditating in our room. It was a silent, cool oasis. We were close enough to the monastery to hear the Tibetan horns and in my meditation I felt a humming sensation in the area of my heart.
During our time in Kathmandu both Randy and I became interested in Satya Sai Baba. He was quite popular with the Hindu Nepalis and his photo and books were everywhere. I was intrigued by the possibility of a “living” Master. I had been introduced to Meher Baba seven years before, six months, however, after he had passed away, so the idea of meeting a living Buddha very much appealed to me.
Randy and I decided to end our traveling partnership. We had different schedules. I wanted to go to India and head south and possibly meet Sai Baba. Randy also wanted to do the same, but he had become involved in a torrid affair with Kathy that hadn’t burned itself out. We bid our farewells with the idea that we would meet up at the Sai Baba ashram which was in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
Note: I will now intersperse my story with a letter I received from my friend Randy (Narayanadeva) after sharing what I had written of our journey in Nepal and India.
What a flash from the past. Thank you for this. It brings so much back. Your memory is like a video recording. My memory is patchy with particular moments fuzzily framed. If you don’t mind I want to share what I can.
I believe if we hadn’t stopped where we had at that last village at 10,000 feet that we would have gotten into serious trouble. There was a group with a broken leg still on the snowed-in trail was the story.
I remember the couple. The name Ben comes to mind and I can’t remember the name of the girl, Kathy is very close. This was a significant time.
She was from the east coast, living in an artists and musicians commune, a photographer and roadie with Jethro Tull, I think. The social and other experiments she participated in at such a tender age, this boy from Nebraska was challenged to comprehend. In this respect she was much more worldly, wiser than me, an elder in a killer 20 something body.
She was also the first lover in my life where the center of gravity and conversations were about spirituality, Buddha’s teachings in particular, and how to reconcile our limited understanding with what we saw in the monasteries and monks, which was then followed by the most present lovemaking for me up to that time. We flew high, were consumed with each other, and parted consciously in mid bubble, purposely in crescendo. I review that time with joy and sadness. It is hard to think of that extraordinary woman and time without sometimes tearing. She was finished traveling, wanted to return to her art. I knew I didn’t want to go back to anything. I was sure I wanted to go forward. We knew but unspoken that to go further would have brought reality into the mix. We wanted to say goodbye in full bloom. Things like that were easier in your 20’s. I must say probably the most, bitter sweet, intense affair I ever remember in a life riddled with less meaningful affairs.
I remember spending the winter in Kathmandu immersing myself in everything I could about the Buddha’s teaching, going to the temples, hanging with the monks, partaking in the local produce followed by the pie shops. I was completely blown away and still am today about the psychology, the profound understanding of the science of the mind, but could not get my head around the asceticism. Why the monks, western included had to walk around in winter without shoes or why the poor food needed to be covered in flies. Also the live translations of the Lama’s discourses by some very severe and grim western types. If there was any juice in the teaching, these translators sucked it out and everything was completely lost in translation. I knew for me to go deeper I needed to be able to listen and speak about all this in my tongue.
This is also where the timing gets confused. I do not remember you during that winter. I remember attending the Karmapa’s Black Hat ceremony after spending those cold months in study. This is when I had the most profound experience with him.
The ceremony lasted several days. There were many westerners mingled with the overflowing crowds of Tibetans. The first few days I could not get into the hall but stood outside with the multitudes listening and catching glimpses through the barred windows of the pageantry.
There was one day that I did get in and sat with a few other westerners along with it seemed several hundred monks with the Karmapa on podium doing chants and mudras. The monks deep toned chanting in response, the horns, the incense, I got completely stoned. When it was over, I lingered. The hall was clearing out. I stood in the middle looking up at all the hanging tangkas. I turned around, a few people parted and there was the Karmapa sitting alone on his dais looking at me with an inviting smile a few meters away. I was so shy and not sure what to do. I smiled, bowed and retreated.
The next day I could not get in. I was peering through the open air barred window being jostled back and forth by the crowds feeling the music and chanting; suddenly the Karmapa was at the window looking directly at me about 50 centimeters away. He had been making the rounds inside, blessing everyone in the hall. He looked in my eyes and smiled. He threw water on my face and these words came into my head “Don’t worry, this path is not for everyone” Then he was gone.
I was so shocked. This was the confirmation. Whenever I think of this I feel I was blessed by this very extraordinary being. How he got those words clearly into a very confused mind was magical.
It was not long afterward that I headed south and planned to go to Sai Baba’s ashram as we had planned, on my way to Madras before heading back to the states. As you remember we gave Sai Baba magical powers and were convinced he was going to help us financially.
I got to Bombay and stayed at the Salvation Army behind the Taj Mahal hotel. The very place you and I stayed on our first nights in India coming by boat for 10 days from Madagascar and Mauritius. Do you remember waking up to the Shiva Baba’s with their pythons and cobras, the junkies some dyed from head to toe in blue, including one with a blue dog, the color of the local antiseptic? What a circus before we took a train to the edge of town and hitched our way to Nepal. Do you remember the time a truck stopped for us and we threw our packs into the back, climbed up and jumped into a truck full of cow shit along with our packs? Do you remember all the chillum brakes at the roadside temples? Or the nights in small villages waking up to thousands of the same face staring at us with vacant eyes and all with small pocked scars, village after village the same?
When I was in New Delhi, I heard that there was a Meher Baba center and so I visited during one of their evenings. Upon hearing that I was on my way to visit Satya Sai Baba, an older Baba lover suggested that I go see a rebel of a guru named Rajneesh. I remembered the name and said that I did have in mind possibly stopping there as well. He told me that the Rajneesh ashram was in Poona, just a couple of hours by train from Bombay. He also said that although Satya Sai Baba was not in Poona, there was some kind of Baba center there. At this point, it became clear to me that I would indeed head to Poona.
Walking out of the Poona train station, I found a rickshaw and told the driver to take me to the Sai Baba center. I said, “Sai Baba center, not Rajneesh ashram.” “Yes, yes,” he replied. I had decided that I would first go to the Sai Baba center and then check out the Rajneesh ashram.
As we got nearer and nearer to our destination I saw increasing numbers of young western people dressed in orange clothes. By this time, I had been exposed to a couple of Rajneesh sannyasins and so recognized what I was seeing. We arrived at a large gate and on the top was written Shree Rajneesh Ashram. A large blonde German fellow greeted me and I heard myself say, “I don’t think I am where I was going, but I know that I’m in the right place.”
The first thing that I read from Osho (I will now begin to refer to Rajneesh by the name he took only a few months before leaving this planet) spoke directly to me. There was no space; no separation between the words and my self, there was an immediacy. It was clear within days that I would not be going on to the Sai Baba ashram; I had found the living Master I was looking for. I had arrived just weeks before a major celebration day, March 21st, honoring Osho’s day of Enlightenment. I took initiation, became a sannyasin and did a couple of groups. During this time I read one of Osho’s books called The Silent Explosion. At the very end of the book was the story of an Indian sannyasin who had gone to Sikkim and visited the Karmapa at his Rumtek Monastery. This was the same Lama that had been in Kathmandu months earlier. I had learned that he was highly respected in the Tibetan Buddhist community and was on par with or even more highly regarded than the Dalai Lama.
This is the story that was recounted:
In 1972, Swami Govind Siddharth, an Osho sannyasin, visited the Tibetan Lama Karmapa, who had fled from Tibet and who at that timed lived in his Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. When Siddharth arrived, accompanied by his wife and two young daughters, the monastery was completely closed. In an interview at the time, he told of his initial disappointment at not meeting the Karmapa. Then all of a sudden, one monk came running out to tell him that he was immediately wanted inside by His Holiness. He went in and was greeted by the Karmapa as if he was expected there. The Karmapa never even knew anything about him beforehand as he had not made an appointment… he knew nothing about him except that he was dressed in the faded orange of early neo-sannyas.
Of Lama Karmapa, it was said he was a ‘Divine Incarnation’, a Bodhisattva. In Tibet, they believe that whosoever attains to Buddhahood, and then by their own wishes is born again to help people in the world is a divine incarnation — Bodhisattva. His Holiness was said to be the sixteenth incarnation of Dsum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa, who was born about 1110 AD.
When Swami Siddharth first entered, the Karmapa immediately told him that he knew where he was from. He said, “I am seeing that you have somewhere some photograph or something which is printed on two sides, of your Master.” Siddharth answered that he had nothing like that which is printed on two sides. He had completely forgotten about the locket hanging from his mala with Osho’s photograph on both sides! There was an English woman who was acting as an interpreter, since the Lama Karmapa did not speak English. She immediately saw his mala and said, “What is this?” He then remembered that the locket was printed on two sides and he said, “This is the photograph of my Master.” She was curious to see it, so Siddharth took it off and showed it to her.
Immediately, the Karmapa said, “That is it.” He took the locket of Osho in his hand and he touched it to his forehead and then said: “He is the greatest incarnation since Buddha in India — he is a living Buddha!” The Karmapa went on to say, “You may be feeling that he is speaking for you, but it is not only for you that he speaks. Rajneesh speaks for the Akashic records also, the records of events and words recorded on the astral planes. Whatever is spoken is not forgotten. That is why you will find that he goes on repeating things and you will feel that he is doing this for you, but, as a matter of fact, he speaks only for a few people. Only a few people realize who Rajneesh is. His words will remain there in the Akashic records, so that they will also be helpful to people in the future.”
The Karmapa went on to say that Osho had been with Siddharth in past lives. “If you want to see one of Rajneesh’s previous incarnations — who he was in Tibet — you can go to Tibet and see his golden statue there which is preserved in the Hall of Incarnations.” He continued to chat about Osho and his work, “My blessings are always there, and I know that whatever we are not going to be able to do to help others, Rajneesh will do.” He explained that one of the main aims of the Lamas in coming to India was to preserve their occult sciences. Osho from his side also confirmed this in his Kashmir lectures given in 1969. He said then, “The Dalai Lama has not escaped only to save himself, but to save the Tibetan religion, the meditation secrets and the occult sciences”
The Karmapa went on to explain, “We have gotten these things from India in the past, and now we want to return them back. Now we have come to know that here is an incarnation, Rajneesh, who is doing our job in India and the world, and we are very happy about it. The world will know him, but only a few people will realize what he actually is. He will be the only person who can guide properly, who can be a World Teacher in this age, and he had taken birth only for this purpose.”
When I read this story I was very skeptical, because all devotees of gurus like to exaggerate the importance of their teachers. Although I believed the story must be based on some truth, I could not be sure what the Karmapa thought about Osho.
In the meantime, I had written to my friend Randy to tell him about Osho and the ashram and had sent it to American Express, Delhi, where I knew he would pick up mail. One day I went into the ashram office to check for a response and as I was walking down the steps leaving, coming through the gate was my friend Randy. He had never received my letter but had learned of Osho on his own.
Narayanadeva’s letter continues:
Anyway I returned to Bombay to catch a boat to Goa and then planned to go to Sai Baba by land. I needed to get something to read. The best bookstore I knew was at the Taj Mahal Hotel. I went to the section on psychology and religion. I was browsing when I swear this book fell on my big toe. “Archarya Rajneesh” was the title. The first page mentioned that he gave lectures in English and lived in Poona only one day away.
Getting there, first person I meet is you. And our stories join and the rest is history.
Brother, we shared some amazing times together. I have forgotten so many of them. It is a complete delight to hear from you with your photographic memory of those days. We were so lucky. I am so grateful for that time.
Much Love to you my fellow traveler.
Narayanadeva a.k.a. Randy
I had by this time realized that my time traveling outside of the States was coming to an end. Taking sannyas was a new beginning for me and to be honest I wanted to return to my hometown and share this remarkable discovery. I had received a name for a meditation center that I would start. Randy, (who had become Narayanadeva by this point), and I said our farewells again with approximately the same plans to return to the States by going east from India through Thailand but with slightly different time frames.
On the plane from Bombay to Calcutta I sat next to a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He didn’t speak a word of English but there we were— he in his maroon robes and me in my orange clothes.
It might have been the first or second night of my stay in a Sutter Street guesthouse in Calcutta and in walked Ben, the American Tibetan Buddhist who had given me the contact info for Osho. I was very happy to see him. I had thought about him many times and was so grateful for his sharing and I wanted to tell him what I had found. We talked a bit and then he told me that coincidentally the Karmapa was in Calcutta and he was going to see him the next day at the Oberoi Hotel. He invited me to go with him. I was delighted. For one thing in the back of my mind was the Rumtek story and so I thought I would be able to see what the Karmapa actually did think about Osho for myself.
The Karmapa’s room was a corner one and Ben and I approached from one hallway and as we neared we could see an Indian sannyasin couple in orange approaching from the other direction. He was dressed in a lunghi and had a very long beard and long hair. She was dressed in an orange sari. They were Osho sannyasins and ran the Calcutta Osho center.
We all entered the room and were shown to sit just in front of the Karmapa who was seated on a sofa. He was immensely childlike, full of love and innocence and looked to be always on the verge of a good chuckle. He sat stroking the beard of the Indian sannyasin who was sitting slightly to his right. This in itself would have been enough to let me know what he thought of Osho but it was not all. Sitting next to him on the sofa he had propped up a copy of Sannyas Magazine (published at the ashram) with a photo of Osho beaming out on to our group.
At that point it did not matter whether the story that I had read was factual or not, I could see the connection between the Karmapa and Osho. That space out of which the Karmapa and the photo of Osho appeared was One.
Of course I had related the story to Ben when we met in Calcutta but after the meeting at the Oberoi we didn’t talk of it again. We were invited to a private Black Crown (Empowerment) Ceremony that was taking place at the home of a wealthy Indian woman later that evening. This is the same ceremony that took place months earlier at the Swayambhu Monastery in Kathmandu but that I had not been able to attend.
One of the first people I met after arriving at the house was the Tibetan monk who had sat next to me on the flight. As it turned out he had been traveling to join up with the Karmapa and return with him to Rumtek. He was as surprised as I was.
The ceremony was penetrating; to be in a room with Tibetan horns blaring is in itself a transformative experience. After the ceremony the few westerners that were there, I think maybe we were five, were invited into a side room where the Karmapa gave a teaching on Tilopa’s Song of Mahamudra. This is the most important text of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Osho had himself given a discourse series published as Tantra: the Supreme Understanding on this text, and I was traveling with the book.
Because the Karmapa didn’t speak English he had a translator, but his translator told us he was having a very difficult time translating this teaching into English. He was frustrated but the Karmapa was understanding and compassionate. This experience highlighted for me one of the advantages of having a teacher who spoke English. Osho’s words did not need to be translated and we were able to hear them directly without a filter.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to first spend some time with the Karmapa and then to take part in this mysterious ceremony. It was the only time I met the Karmapa. But my wife, Amido, and I did have a chance in 2006 to visit the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim where his relics are today housed.
In this exclusive interview with Stephan Bodian, (published in the Nov/Dec 1986 issue of YOGA JOURNAL), author Bernadette Roberts describes the path of the Christian contemplative after the experience of oneness with God.
Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey, The Experience of No-Self (Shambala, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the “unitive state”, the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experience of others. In the years that followed she completed a graduate degree in education, married, raised four children, and taught at the pre-school, high school, and junior college levels; at the same time she continued her contemplative practice. Then, quite unexpectedly, some 20 years after leaving the convent, Roberts reportedly experienced the dropping away of the unitive state itself and came upon what she calls “the experience of no-self” – an experience for which the Christian literature, she says, gave her no clear road maps or guideposts. Her books, which combine fascinating chronicles of her own experiences with detailed maps of the contemplative terrain, are her attempt to provide such guideposts for those who might follow after her.
Now 55 and once again living in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, Roberts characterizes herself as a “bag lady” whose sister and brother in law are “keeping her off the streets.” “I came into this world with nothing,” she writes, “and I leave with nothing. But in between I lived fully – had all the experiences, stretched the limits, and took one too many chances.” When I approached her for an interview, Roberts was reluctant at first, protesting that others who had tried had distorted her meaning, and that nothing had come of it in the end. Instead of a live interview, she suggested, why not send her a list of questions to which she would respond in writing, thereby eliminating all possibility for misunderstanding. As a result, I never got to meet Bernadette Roberts face to face – but her answers to my questions, which are as carefully crafted and as deeply considered as her books, are a remarkable testament to the power of contemplation.
Stephan: Could you talk briefly about the first three stages of the Christian contemplative life as you experienced them – in particular, what you (and others) have called the unitive state?
Bernadette: Strictly speaking, the terms “purgative”, “illuminative”, and “unitive” (often used of the contemplative path) do not refer to discrete stages, but to a way of travel where “letting go”, “insight”, and “union”, define the major experiences of the journey. To illustrate the continuum, authors come up with various stages, depending on the criteria they are using. St. Teresa, for example, divided the path into seven stages or “mansions”. But I don’t think we should get locked into any stage theory: it is always someone else’s retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights. Our obligation is to be true to our own insights, our own inner light.
My view of what some authors call the “unitive stage” is that it begins with the Dark Night of the Spirit or the onset of the transformational process – when the larva enters the cocoon, so to speak. Up to this point, we are actively reforming ourselves, doing what we can to bring about an abiding union with the divine. But at a certain point, when we have done all we can, the divine steps in and takes over. The transforming process is a divine undoing and redoing that culminates in what is called the state of “transforming union” or “mystical marriage”, considered to be the definitive state for the Christian contemplative. In experience, the onset of this process is the descent of the cloud of unknowing, which, because his former light had gone out and left him in darkness, the contemplative initially interprets as the divine gone into hiding. In modern terms, the descent of the cloud is actually the falling away of the ego-center, which leaves us looking into a dark hole, a void or empty space in ourselves. Without the veil of the ego-center, we do not recognize the divine; it is not as we thought it should be. Seeing the divine, eye to eye is a reality that shatters our expectations of light and bliss. From here on we must feel our way in the dark, and the special eye that allows us to see in the dark opens up at this time.
So here begins our journey to the true center, the bottom-most, innermost “point” in ourselves where our life and being runs into divine life and being – the point at which all existence comes together. This center can be compared to a coin: on the near side is our self, on the far side is the divine. One side is not the other side, yet we cannot separate the two sides. If we tried to do so, we would either end up with another side, or the whole coin would collapse, leaving no center at all – no self and no divine. We call this a state of oneness or union because the single center has two sides, without which there would be nothing to be one, united, or non-dual. Such, at least, is the experiential reality of the state of transforming union, the state of oneness.
Stephan: How did you discover the further stage, which you call the experience of no-self?
Bernadette: That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center – the coin, or “true self” – suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine. Our subjective life of experience is over – the passage is finished. I had never heard of such a possibility or happening. Obviously there is far more to the elusive experience we call self than just the ego. The paradox of our passage is that we really do not know what self or consciousness is, so long as we are living it, or are it. The true nature of self can only be fully disclosed when it is gone, when there is no self.
One outcome, then, of the no-self experience is the disclosure of the true nature of self or consciousness. As it turns out, self is the entire system of consciousness, from the unconscious to God-consciousness, the entire dimension of human knowledge and feeling-experience. Because the terms “self” and “consciousness” express the same experiences (nothing can be said of one that cannot be said of the other), they are only definable in the terms of “experience”. Every other definition is conjecture and speculation. No-self, then, means no-consciousness. If this is shocking to some people, it is only because they do not know the true nature of consciousness. Sometimes we get so caught up in the content of consciousness, we forget that consciousness is also a somatic function of the physical body, and, like every such function, it is not eternal. Perhaps we would do better searching for the divine in our bodies than amid the content and experience of consciousness.
Stephan: How does one move from “transforming union” to the experience of no-self? What is the path like?
Bernadette: We can only see a path in retrospect. Once we come to the state of oneness, we can go no further with the inward journey. The divine center is the innermost “point”, beyond which we cannot go at this time. Having reached this point, the movement of our journey turns around and begins to move outward – the center is expanding outward. To see how this works, imagine self, or consciousness, as a circular piece of paper. The initial center is the ego, the particular energy we call “will” or volitional faculty, which can either be turned outward, toward itself, or inward, toward the divine ground, which underlies the center of the paper. When, from our side of consciousness, we can do no more to reach this ground, the divine takes the initiative and breaks through the center, shattering the ego like an arrow shot through the center of being. The result is a dark hole in ourselves and the feeling of terrible void and emptiness. This breakthrough demands a restructuring or change of consciousness, and this change is the true nature of the transforming process. Although this transformation culminates in true human maturity, it is not man’s final state. The whole purpose of oneness is to move us on to a more final state.
To understand what happens next, we have to keep cutting larger holes in the paper, expanding the center until only the barest rim or circumference remains. One more expansion of the divine center and the boundaries of consciousness or self fall away. From this illustration we can see how the ultimate fulfillment of consciousness, or self, is no-consciousness, or no-self. The path from oneness to no-oneness is an egoless one and is therefore devoid of ego-satisfaction. Despite the unchanging center of peace and joy, the events of life may not be peaceful or joyful at all. With no ego-gratification at the center and no divine joy on the surface, this part of the journey is not easy. Heroic acts of selflessness are required to come to the end of self, acts comparable to cutting ever-larger holes in the paper – acts, that is, that bring no return to the self whatsoever.
The major temptation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. As I see it, in the transforming process we only come to terms with the archetypes of the personal unconscious; the archetypes of the collective consciousness are reserved for individuals in the state of oneness, because those archetypes are powers or energies of that state. Jung felt that these archetypes were unlimited; but in fact, there is only one true archetype, and that archetype is self. What is unlimited are the various masks or roles self is tempted to play in the state of oneness – savior, prophet, healer, martyr, Mother Earth, you name it. They are all temptations to seize power for ourselves, to think ourselves to be whatever the mask or role may be. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the “ground” that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a “stillpoint”, not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them. So the path from oneness to no-oneness is a life that is choicelessly devoid of ego-satisfaction; a life of unmasking the energies of self and all the divine roles it is tempted to play. It is hard to call this life a “path”, yet it is the only way to get to the end of our journey.
Stephan: In The Experience of No-Self you talk at great length about your experience of the dropping away or loss of self. Could you briefly describe this experience and the events that led up to it? I was particularly struck by your statement “I realized I no longer had a ‘within’ at all.” For so many of us, the spiritual life is experienced as an “inner life” – yet the great saints and sages have talked about going beyond any sense of inwardness.
Bernadette: Your observation strikes me as particularly astute; most people miss the point. You have actually put your finger on the key factor that distinguishes between the state of oneness and the state of no-oneness, between self and no-self. So long as self remains, there will always be a “center”. Few people realize that not only is the center responsible for their interior experiences of energy, emotion, and feeling, but also, underlying these, the center is our continuous, mysterious experience of “life” and “being”. Because this experience is more pervasive than our other experiences, we may not think of “life” and “being” as an interior experience. Even in the state of oneness, we tend to forget that our experience of “being” originates in the divine center, where it is one with divine life and being. We have become so used to living from this center that we feel no need to remember it, to mentally focus on it, look within, or even think about it. Despite this fact, however, the center remains; it is the epicenter of our experience of life and being, which gives rise to our experiential energies and various feelings.
If this center suddenly dissolves and disappears, the experiences of life, being, energy, feeling and so on come to an end, because there is no “within” any more. And without a “within”, there is no subjective, psychological, or spiritual life remaining – no experience of life at all. Our subjective life is over and done with. But now, without center and circumference, where is the divine? To get hold of this situation, imagine consciousness as a balloon filled with, and suspended in divine air. The balloon experiences the divine as immanent, “in” itself, as well as transcendent, beyond or outside itself. This is the experience of the divine in ourselves and ourselves in the divine; in the state of oneness, Christ is often seen as the balloon (ourselves), completing this trinitarian experience. But what makes this whole experience possible – the divine as both immanent and transcendent – is obviously the balloon, i.e. consciousness or self. Consciousness sets up the divisions of within and without, spirit and matter, body and soul, immanent and transcendent; in fact, consciousness is responsible for every division we know of. But what if we pop the balloon – or better, cause it to vanish like a bubble that leaves no residue. All that remains is divine air. There is no divine in anything, there is no divine transcendence or beyond anything, nor is the divine anything. We cannot point to anything or anyone and say, “This or that is divine”. So the divine is all – all but consciousness or self, which created the division in the first place. As long as consciousness remains however, it does not hide the divine, nor is it ever separated from it. In Christian terms, the divine known to consciousness and experienced by it as immanent and transcendent is called God; the divine as it exists prior to consciousness and after consciousness is gone is called Godhead. Obviously, what accounts for the difference between God and Godhead is the balloon or bubble – self or consciousness. As long as any subjective self remains, a center remains; and so, too, does the sense of interiority.
Stephan: You mention that, with the loss of the personal self, the personal God drops away as well. Is the personal God, then, a transitional figure in our search for ultimate loss of self?
Bernadette: Sometimes we forget that we cannot put our finger on anything or any experience that is not transitional. Since consciousness, self, or subject is the human faculty for experiencing the divine, every such experience is personally subjective; thus in my view, “personal God” is any subjective experience of the divine. Without a personal, subjective self, we could not even speak of an impersonal, non-subjective God; one is just relative to the other. Before consciousness or self existed, however, the divine was neither personal nor impersonal, subjective nor non-subjective – and so the divine remains when self or consciousness has dropped away. Consciousness by its very nature tends to make the divine into its own image and likeness; the only problem is, the divine has no image or likeness. Hence consciousness, of itself, cannot truly apprehend the divine.
Christians (Catholics especially) are often blamed for being the great image makers, yet their images are so obviously naive and easy to see through, we often miss the more subtle, formless images by which consciousness fashions the divine. For example, because the divine is a subjective experience, we think the divine is a subject; because we experience the divine through the faculties of consciousness, will, and intellect, we think the divine is equally consciousness, will and intellect; because we experience ourselves as a being or entity, we experience the divine as a being or entity; because we judge others, we think the divine judges others; and so on. Carrying a holy card in our pockets is tame compared to the formless notions we carry around in our minds; it is easy to let go of an image, but almost impossible to uproot our intellectual convictions based on the experiences of consciousness.
Still, if we actually knew the unbridgeable chasm that lies between the true nature of consciousness or self and the true nature of the divine, we would despair of ever making the journey. So consciousness is the marvelous divine invention by which human beings make the journey in subjective companionship with the divine; and, like every divine invention, it works. Consciousness both hides the chasm and bridges it – and when we have crossed over, of course, we do not need the bridge any more. So it doesn’t matter that we start out on our journey with our holy cards, gongs and bells, sacred books and religious feelings. All of it should lead to growth and transformation, the ultimate surrender of our images and concepts, and a life of selfless giving. When there is nothing left to surrender, nothing left to give, only then can we come to the end of the passage – the ending of consciousness and its personally subjective God. One glimpse of the Godhead, and no one would want God back.
Stephan: How does the path to no-self in the Christian contemplative tradition differ from the path as laid out in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions?
Bernadette: I think it may be too late for me to ever have a good understanding of how other religions make this passage. If you are not surrendering your whole being, your very consciousness, to a loved and trusted personal God, then what are you surrendering it to? Or why surrender it at all? Loss of ego, loss of self, is just a by-product of this surrender; it is not the true goal, not an end in itself. Perhaps this is also the view of Mahayana Buddhism, where the goal is to save all sentient beings from suffering, and where loss of ego, loss of self, is seen as a means to a greater end. This view is very much in keeping with the Christian desire to save all souls. As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the “unconditioned and unbegotten” than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.
Actually, I met up with Buddhism only at the end of my journey, after the no-self experience. Since I knew that this experience was not articulated in our contemplative literature, I went to the library to see if it could be found in the Eastern Religions. It did not take me long to realize that I would not find it in the Hindu tradition, where, as I see it, the final state is equivalent to the Christian experience of oneness or transforming union. If a Hindu had what I call the no-self experience, it would be the sudden, unexpected disappearance of the Atman-Brahman, the divine Self in the “cave of the heart”, and the disappearance of the cave as well. It would be the ending of God-consciousness, or transcendental consciousness – that seemingly bottomless experience of “being”, “consciousness”, and “bliss” that articulates the state of oneness. To regard this ending as the falling away of the ego is a grave error; ego must fall away before the state of oneness can be realized. The no-self experience is the falling away of this previously realized transcendent state.
Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist’s insistence on no eternal Self – be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman. Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the “no-self experience”; it lends itself to no other possible articulation.
Initially, I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature. Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, “All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed.” And there it was – the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, “Again a house thou shall not build,” clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a “true center,” a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.
As a Christian, I saw the no-self experience as the true nature of Christ’s death, the movement beyond even is oneness with the divine, the movement from God to Godhead. Though not articulated in contemplative literature, Christ dramatized this experience on the cross for all ages to see and ponder. Where Buddha described the experience, Christ manifested it without words; yet they both make the same statement and reveal the same truth – that ultimately, eternal life is beyond self or consciousness. After one has seen it manifested or heard it said, the only thing left is to experience it.
Stephan: You mention in The Path to No-Self that the unitive state is the “true state in which God intended every person to live his mature years,” yet so few of us ever achieve this unitive state. What is it about the way we live right now that prevents us from doing so? Do you think it is our preoccupation with material success, technology, and personal accomplishment?
Bernadette: First of all, I think there are more people in the state of oneness than we realize. For everyone we hear about there are thousands we will never hear about. Believing this state to be a rare achievement can be an impediment in itself. Unfortunately, those who write about it have a ,ay of making it sound more extraordinary and blissful that it commonly is, and so false expectations are another impediment – we keep waiting and looking for an experience or state that never comes. But if I had to put my finger on the primary obstacle, I would say it is having wrong views of the journey.
Paradoxical though it may seem the passage through consciousness or self moves contrary to self, rubs it the wrong way – and in the end, will even rub it out. Because this passage goes against the grain of self, it is, therefore, a path of suffering. Both Christ and Buddha saw the passage as one of suffering, and basically found identical ways out. What they discovered and revealed to us was that each of us has within himself or herself a “stillpoint” – comparable, perhaps to the eye of a cyclone, a spot or center of calm, imperturbability, and non-movement. Buddha articulated this central eye in negative terms as “emptiness” or “void”, a refuge from the swirling cyclone of endless suffering. Christ articulated the eye in more positive terms as the “Kingdom of God” or the “Spirit within”, a place of refuge and salvation from a suffering self.
For both of them, the easy out was first to find that stillpoint and then, by attaching ourselves to it, by becoming one with it, to find a stabilizing, balanced anchor in our lives. After that, the cyclone is gradually drawn into the eye, and the suffering self comes to an end. And when there is no longer a cyclone, there is also no longer an eye. So the storms, crises, and sufferings of life are a way of finding the eye. When everything is going our way, we do not see the eye, and we feel no need to find it. But when everything is going against us, then we find the eye. So the avoidance of suffering and the desire to have everything go our own way runs contrary to the whole movement of our journey; it is all a wrong view. With the right view, however, one should be able to come to the state of oneness in six or seven years – years not merely of suffering, but years of enlightenment, for right suffering is the essence of enlightenment. Because self is everyone’s experience underlying all culture. I do not regard cultural wrong views as an excuse for not searching out right views. After all, each person’s passage is his or her own; there is no such thing as a collective passage.
Interview with Bernadette Roberts Reprinted from the book Timeless Visions, Healing Voices, copyright 1991 by Stephan Bodian (www.stephanbodian.org).
I am reminded of a story. Gautam the Buddha one day comes into his morning discourse; ten thousand sannyasins are waiting for him, just like every day. But today there is something surprising.
Everybody is puzzled and looking at each other, because Buddha is coming with a handkerchief, it is very costly – perhaps some king has presented it to him.
But he does not accept that kind of thing, so everybody is looking, thinking, what is the matter?
And why should he bring it just in his hand ahead of himself almost saying to everybody, “Look, look well”? And then he comes and sits; and keeping the handkerchief in his hand, says to his sannyasins, “Look very carefully.”
They all look. There is nothing to look at, just a beautiful silken handkerchief. And then Buddha starts putting knots in the handkerchief; he puts five knots in it. There is immense silence… everybody is simply watching what he is doing. Then Buddha asks them, “Is this the same handkerchief the same that I had brought with me, or is it a different handkerchief?”
Sariputta, one of his chief disciples, stands up and says, “Why are you joking with us? You have never done such a thing. This is the same handkerchief.”
Buddha says, “Sariputta, think once again – because the handkerchief that I brought had no knots, and this has five knots. How can this be the same?”
Sariputta could see the point. He said, “I am sorry. I do understand. Although it is the same handkerchief now it is in a very knotted condition – such as a man in anguish. He is the same man; a man in suffering is the same man but in knots.”
Buddha said, “Exactly right. That’s what I want to show to you: that the man who is in suffering is not different from Gautam the Buddha. I am just a handkerchief without knots. You are a handkerchief with five knots.” Of course Buddha has his philosophy of five basic problems that trouble man: violence, greed, untruthfulness, unawareness, and the ego. You can find many more knots; these are just the main ones according to him.
Secondly he said, “I would like to ask you one thing more. I am trying to open these knots. Look at me – will this help to open the knots?” He pulled both the ends of the handkerchief; the knots became smaller and tighter. Somebody shouted, “What are you doing? This way those knots will never open. Such fine silk and you are pulling so hard! The knots are becoming so small that it will become almost impossible to open them again.”
Buddha said, “You can understand about this handkerchief so clearly – can’t you understand yourself? Can’t you see yourself in the same, understanding way? Have you been pulling your knots or not? Otherwise why do they go on becoming smaller and smaller, and tighter and tighter?
”A child is loose, relaxed. Look at the old man, just knots and knots. Certainly, whatever you are
doing is wrong. You are pulling the handkerchief. You are trying hard; your intention is good, you want to open the knots. You are taking much trouble – but your doing is your very undoing. You are making things more and more complicated, worse and worse. And the more complicated they become, the harder you pull, because you think, what else to do?”
Buddha asked, “Then I would like to ask you, what do you suppose I should do?”
One monk stood up and he said, “I would like to come close, and first I would like to see how the knots have been put together.”
Buddha said, “That’s a scientific way. Before you can undo something, you have to know how it has been done, because if you know how it has been done, you have already known all that is needed to undo it; you have just to reverse the process.”
The monk looked at the handkerchief and he said “The knots have been done in such a way that if we relax the handkerchief and allow the knots to become looser rather than tighter, and help them to become loose, it is not going to be very difficult. They are simple knots.”
Buddha gave the handkerchief to him and the man opened the knots one by one. Buddha said,
”Today’s sermon is finished. I am not going to speak anymore today. Just go and meditate about your knots, and how you have managed to make them so tight. And just do the reverse.”
Any small problem, just look at it, at how you have been trying to solve it and it goes on becoming worse and worse. Certainly in your doing there is something which is becoming a nourishment to it rather than a killer. You are not poisoning it; you are nourishing it, feeding it. And don’t try to work on so many knots together. Just choose one small knot, the smallest you can find in yourself; by smallest, I mean the most insignificant.
People have the tendency to choose the most significant; even when they are choosing to solve their problems, they choose the greatest problem first. Now, that is simply foolish. Just become a little aware, alert. Start from the small things, very small things.
In one sermon Buddha was speaking, and a man sitting in front of him was moving his toe continuously. Buddha was not like me; otherwise he would have stopped him immediately. He tolerated it, tolerated it, tolerated it – but it was too much, because the man was just in front of him and he went on, went on, went on.
At the end Buddha said, “What is wrong with your toe?” The moment he said, “What is wrong with your toe?” the man stopped. Buddha said, “This is what is wrong with your toe: you are not aware of it. You were not doing it, it was happening almost unconsciously. It is just a habit; you must be doing it everywhere you are sitting. Now it goes on doing it by itself knowing that the master needs it. The master is not even aware that it is happening, because the moment I asked you about it, it stopped immediately. That means the moment your awareness went to the toe there was a complete break.”
Now, start with such small things which have not much investment in them. People start with their ego – they want to become egoless. Now, you are taking on such a big problem. You are so small, and the problem is so big, that you are going to fail.
In fact that’s why you have chosen the big problem, because you want to fail, you don’t want to succeed. Perhaps this too is the way of the ego, to choose the biggest problem. You are no ordinary man trying to change small things here and there; when you want to change, you want to change the real problem. Perhaps this is the ego coming in from the back and deceiving you.
Now choose something very insignificant, which makes not much difference. But the beauty is,
the smallest problem has the same properties as the biggest problem, the same ingredients as the biggest problem and the same solution as the biggest problem.
All problems are one problem.
If you can solve a small problem – dissolve it, get rid of it, be finished with it – you know the master key.
Now you can go on opening all the locks in your house. And there is not going to be any trouble.
The basic key is awareness.
And while solving a small problem, you are starting to learn the ABC of awareness.
Choose something meaningless with no investment; it will be easier to work with. And once you have worked with it, you will be surprised: you have the secret, the whole secret of your puzzled, knotted life.
Solve it, then man is born in you. Before that, you are only a problem.
Taken from the series From Misery to Enlightenment, chapter 19.
“I beg myself as well as my readers not to mistake understanding for attainment; and not to imagine, on the strength of their realization of certain truths, that they possess them, or still less, that they can use them. Our being, in which alone truth is possessed, is still a long way behind our understanding.”
Wolff grounds his philosophy in his Realizations, and not in mere rational speculation. In his written report of his mystical unfoldment, Wolff identifies three premonitory recognitions and two fundamental, or transcendental, Recognitions.
First Premonitory Recognition: “I am Atman”
Wolff’s first premonitory recognition took place in 1922, approximately 14 years prior to his transcendental breakthroughs. Wolff describes this first recognition as a noetic insight into the truth of “I am Atman”. The term “Atman” is a Sanskrit term that Wolff uses to refer to the transcendental subject to consciousness (see the discussion above of the second fundamental of the philosophy). Just prior to this insight, Wolff had been engaged in the practice of discrimination of subject (Atman) and object (world). This practice of discrimination is fundamental to the teachings of Shankara, the founder of the Advaita Vedanta school of nondual philosophy. The purpose of this practice is to effect a disidentification and detachment from the objects of consciousness, and a realization of identity with pure subjectivity. Although Wolff previously had been intellectually convinced of the truth of the proposition “I am Atman”, this time he suddenly realized its truth at a deeper level than the intellect. Although this was only a veiled Realization, it nevertheless brought a sense of Light and Joy, and had persistent positive effects, such as a certain change in the base of thought, bringing clarity where there had previously been obscurity.
Second Premonitory Recognition: “I am Nirvana”
The second premonitory recognition took place in late 1935, approximately 9 months prior to the first fundamental breakthrough. Wolff describes this recognition as the realization that “I am Nirvana”. Prior to this noetic insight, his thought upon the subject of Nirvana had been involved in the confusion that Nirvana is a kind of other-world separate from the relative world of subject-object consciousness. While meditating upon Nirvana, however, it suddenly dawned on him that “I am Nirvana”, where “I” is understood here to mean the inner core of subjectivity. Like the Atman, Nirvana is never an object before consciousness. It is therefore identical with the subject to consciousness, or the true “I”. As with the prior recognition, this insight was accompanied by a sense of Joy and Illumination within the relative consciousness, and had persistent effects. In addition, there was a sense of a Current with profound depth.
Third Premonitory Recognition: “Substantiality is inversely proportional to ponderability”
The third premonitory recognition took place in late July, 1936, about two weeks prior to the fundamental breakthrough. Prior to this insight, Wolff experienced certain logical difficulties reconciling Transcendent Being with the physical universe. These difficulties arise from the habit of regarding objects of consciousness, i.e., any appearance in consciousness that we can ponder or experience, as in some sense substantial. Although Wolff had a prior intellectual conviction that the Transcendent Being was more substantial, the intellectual idea alone had failed to have a powerful transformative effect on his consciousness. This third premonitory recognition, however, had a profound effect on his consciousness that served to clear the way for the fundamental breakthrough that would follow in a matter of days. Wolff expressed the insight with the following proposition: “Substantiality is inversely proportional to ponderability”, or “Reality is inversely proportional to appearance”. In other words, the degree of true substance or reality is the inverse or opposite of the degree of ponderability. Thus, concrete objects of experience, which have a high degree of ponderability, are the least substantial. Subtle or abstract objects of experience, on the other hand, which are less ponderable, partake of a higher degree of substantiality and reality. The effect of this insight upon Wolff was an acceptance of substantial reality where the senses reported emptiness, and a greater capacity to realize unreality, or merely dependent or derivative reality, in the material given through the senses. This insight brought about a more profound shift of identification with the transcendent supersensible reality, and a correspondingly profound detachment from the objects of consciousness. This shift was decisive in clearing the way for the fundamental realizations that were to follow.
First Fundamental Recognition: Realization of Self, Liberation
The first of Wolff’s two fundamental Realizations took place on August 6, 1936. In contrast with the prior insights, which retained objective elements in his own consciousness and thus fell short of genuine identification, the fundamental Realizations unequivocally transcended the subject-object or relative consciousness. Just prior to the first Realization, Wolff had been meditating upon the teachings of Shankara, particularly the discussion of Liberation. Upon meditative reflection, he realized that his efforts to attain Liberation involved a seeking after a subtle object of experience. But any new object of experience, no matter how subtle, was something other than the objectless transcendent consciousness. Thus, Liberation does not necessarily involve any new object of experience or change in the content of consciousness. To seek such a new object or experience, therefore, is a mistake. Genuine Realization, therefore, is a recognition of Nothing — but a Nothing that is absolutely Substantial and identical with the SELF. The result of this profound realization was the complete and instant cessation of expectation of having any new experience or relative form of knowledge arise. The light of consciousness then turned back upon itself, toward its source, and the pure Atman was realized as absolute fullness and as identical with himself. This Recognition was not an experience of any new content in consciousness, but a Re-Cognition of a Truth that is, was, and always will be. It is a nondual knowledge of identity that transcends space and time. Nevertheless, there were various effects experienced within the relative consciousness, that may be considered expressions of the Recognition. Because the Recognition is not the recognition of any particular effects or phenomena, they should not be confused with the Recognition itself. Some of the effects Wolff experienced were: (1) A shift in the base of reference in consciousness, transplanting the roots of identity from the relative to the transcendent, (2) a transformation of the meaning of self from a point-like principle opposed to objects of experience to a space-like identity with the entire field of consciousness and all its contents, (3) a sense of penetrating knowledge into the depths of reality, (4) a transcendence of space, time, and causality, (4) complete freedom and liberation from all bondage. Also experienced were qualities of joy, felicity, serenity, peace, and benevolence.
Second Fundamental Recognition: High Indifference, Equilibrium
Although Wolff’s first fundamental Realization was an unequivocal transcendence of the subject-object consciousness, for a period of approximately 33 days there remained certain unresolved tensions preventing it from being a full state of equilibrium. This tension consisted in the contrast in valuation between the superlative Joy, Peace, Rest, Freedom and Knowledge of the Transcendent and the emptiness of the relative world. There was a distinction between being bound to embodied consciousness and not being so bound, with a subtle attachment to being not bound. Counter-acting this subtle attachment, however, was Wolff’s prior acceptance of the bodhisattva vow, a commitment to the value of relative manifestation and embodiment, motivated by compassion for all sentient beings. With this motivation, Wolff resisted his strong inclination to retreat into the transcendent bliss of nirvanic consciousness. Instead, he sacrificed his strictly personal enjoyment of those transcendent values in order to maintain a relative embodiment and help liberate all sentient beings. This act of compassion and ultimate renunciation led to an unexpected second fundamental Recognition that resolved the residual tensions between the universe and nirvana. The Realization represented a complete Equilibrium, not only a relative equilibrium between objects, but also an ultimate Equilibrium between relative and absolute levels of consciousness. Because this realization does not give any more valuation to nirvana than to the universe, and recognizes no ultimate difference between the two, Wolff called it the High Indifference. It is the complete resolution of tension between all opposites, the complete transcendence of all distinctions, including the distinction between the transcendent and the relative. At this profoundly deep level of Recognition, all self-identity, both in the highest sense of the transcendental Self and the lower sense of the ego self, was no more. In Wolff’s words, “I was no more and God was no more, but only the ETERNAL which sustains all Gods and Selves.”
The following is an excerpt from a dialog held at Joshua Tree, California, May 25, 1995
What do you mean by seeing from behind?
You feel yourself behind and look from behind, hear from behind. It gives you a new quality. First you must know how to see yourself from behind, and then you will know yourself in front.
Does feeling from behind take you out of the forebrain?
Yes. You don’t feel yourself located in the object. You have the sensation of expansion behind you. You are not identified with the object. You have the feeling that the perceiver is behind you, that you are no longer stuck to the object. Body, senses and mind are all objects, objects that need a perceiver to be known. A perceiver can never be known, only what is perceived can be known.
When you knowingly say, “I am not the body, senses and mind, because these do not exist on their own, they need consciousness to be known,” you become integrated; it gives you enormous distance. Then you perceive and live with the surroundings free from psychological involvement. You see facts as they are, free from bad and good. This is whole seeing, global seeing. You know when you are psychologically involved in daily life. But here there is no interpretation, there is only seeing facts as they are. It is important to see how this way of living, this way of seeing, this way of touching, acts on you, how you feel. Then you have a functional relation with your surroundings, also aesthetic and ethical. You see the truth, you see the beauty, you see the functional. Our seeing mainly refers to the ego. You do not see the situation in its verite. When you are appropriate to the situation, then you observe what is aesthetic, ethical and functional. It belongs to you, but this doesn’t mean it is appropriated to your ego. You are taken by the seeing. One can say it is not you who sees it, it is the seeing who sees it.
Taken From The Book of Listening. Non-Duality Press