What is the path of devotion and does it have a place in your vision of the rebel?
Rafia, devotion is not a path. You don’t have to travel it. Devotion is a way of merging and melting into existence. It is not a pilgrimage; it is simply losing all the boundaries that divide you from existence – it is a love affair.
Love is not a path. Love is a merger with an individual, a deep intimacy of two hearts – so deep that the two hearts start dancing in the same harmony. Although the hearts are two, the harmony is one, the music is one, the dance is one.
What love is between individuals, devotion is between one rebel and the whole existence. He dances in the waves of the ocean, he dances in the dancing trees in the sun, he dances with the stars. His heart responds to the fragrance of the flowers, to the song of the birds, to the silences of the night.
Devotion is not a path. Devotion is the death of the personality. That which is mortal in you, you drop of your own accord; only the immortal remains, the eternal remains, the deathless remains. And naturally the deathless cannot be separate from existence – which is deathless, which is always ongoing, knows no beginning, no end.
Devotion is the highest form of love.
It is possible you may love one person, and love becomes so deep that slowly, slowly the very quality of love changes into devotion. Then that person becomes only a window for you to take a jump into existence. That is the situation of the master, as far as the rebel is concerned.
For my people I am not a savior, I am not a messiah. I am just a door, a bridge to pass on into the infinite.
India has a very strange city – perhaps there is no other city like it in the world – Fateh-pur Sikri. It was made by the great emperor Akbar. He wanted to make a special city for his capital. The whole city had to be totally fresh, a piece of art; and he was going to shift the whole capital from Delhi [Agra] to Fateh-pur Sikri. He was a very demanding man, and it had to be not an ordinary city; every house had to be a palace.
For forty years continuously the city was being built – it is surrounded by a beautiful lake – but it was never inhabited. This is the only city in the whole world which has such beautiful palaces, but nobody ever lived there because Akbar died before he could complete the project. The project was too big – to make a whole capital, absolutely fresh and new, out of a special stone; and all the houses, all the roads in a certain pattern with a certain meaning…. Thousands of artists from all over the world were called to work – stone-cutters, masons, architects.
Akbar had perhaps the greatest empire in the whole world in those days. Under Akbar, India was the greatest land; there was immense money available, but Akbar spent everything.
He wanted the capital to be complete before his death. But seeing that it seemed to be impossible, that the capital would take at least forty years more to be absolutely complete, he decided, “At least while I am alive, half of the capital – particularly the offices of the government and the special people – should move.”
A beautiful bridge was made across the lake to join it with the main road; the city was almost a small island inside the lake. Akbar asked his wise people to find a beautiful sentence to be engraved on the main gate of the bridge, to welcome any visitor to the city.
They searched and searched in all the scriptures, in all the literature of the world. It is strange that, although they were Mohammedans, they could find a sentence which was absolutely suitable only in the sayings of Jesus, as if it was being said specially to be engraved on the capital of Fateh-pur Sikri. The sentence is, “It is only a bridge. Remember, don’t make your house on it – it is a place to pass on.” It is a statement about life. Life is a bridge. Don’t make your house on it – it is a place to pass on.
Akbar loved the sentence. It is engraved on Fateh-pur Sikri’s main gate. But before any move could happen, he died. His son had been against the idea from the very beginning, for the simple reason that the whole treasury had been destroyed. Nothing else had been done, only a dead capital had been made – and Delhi [Agra] was doing perfectly well. There was no need, and in fact he had no money left to continue the project for forty more years, so the project was dropped; nobody ever moved. It became a monument, a great memory of the dream of a great king. But to me the most important thing is the sentence on the bridge.
That’s what a master is, for a rebel. That’s what love is, for a rebel. For a rebel, love and the master are synonymous. When his love becomes so deep with the master that he cannot think of himself as separate in any way, love has transformed itself into a new height. That height has been known as devotion.
Devotion is not a path. Devotion is only a love affair, purified to its ultimate state. Then whomsoever you love becomes a door, a bridge to the universal organic unity, the experience of your small identity dissolving in the ocean just like a dewdrop slipping from a lotus leaf.
The highest peak is the culmination all the values: truth, love, awareness, authenticity, totality. At the highest peak they are indivisible. They are separate only in the dark valleys of our unconsciousness They are separate only when they are polluted, mixed with other things. The moment they become pure they become one; the more pure, the closer they come to each other.
For example, each value exists on many planes; each value is a ladder of many rungs.
Love is lust — the lowest rung, which touches hell; and love is also prayer — the highest rung, which touches paradise. And between these two there are many planes easily discernible.
In lust, love is only one percent; ninety-nine percent are other things: jealousies, ego trips, possessiveness, anger, sexuality. It is more physical, more chemical; it has nothing deeper than that. It is very superficial, not even skin-deep.
As you go higher, things become deeper; they start having new dimensions. That which was only physiological starts having a psychological dimension to it. That which was nothing but biology starts becoming psychology. We share biology with all the animals; we don’t share psychology with all the animals.
When love goes still higher — or deeper, which is the same — then it starts having something of the spiritual in it. It becomes metaphysical. Only Buddhas, Krishnas, Christs, they know that quality of love.
Love is spread all the way and so are other values. When love is one hundred percent pure you cannot make any distinction between love and awareness; then they are no more two. You cannot make any distinction between love and God even; they are no more two. Hence Jesus’ statement that God is love. He makes them synonymous. There is great insight in it.
On the periphery everything appears separate from everything else; on the periphery existence is many. As you come closer to the center, the manyness starts melting, dissolving, and oneness starts arising. At the center, everything is one.
Hence your question, Virendra, is right only if you don’t understand the highest quality of love and awareness. It is absolutely irrelevant if you have any glimpse of the Everest, of the highest peak.
You ask: Is Awareness a higher value than Love?
There is nothing higher and nothing lower. In fact, there are not two values at all. These are the two paths from the valley leading to the peak. One path is of awareness, meditation: the path of Zen we have been talking about these days. And the other is the path of love, the path of the devotees, the Bhaktas, the Sufis. These two paths are separate when you start the journey; you have to choose. Whichever you choose is going to lead to the same peak. And as you come closer to the peak you will be surprised: the travelers on the other path are coming closer to you. Slowly, slowly, the paths start merging into each other. By the time you have reached the ultimate, they are one.
The person who follows the path of awareness finds love as a consequence of his awareness, as a by-product, as a shadow. And the person who follows the path of love finds awareness as a consequence, as a by-product, as a shadow of love. They are two sides of the same coin.
And remember: if your awareness lacks love then it is still impure; it has not yet known one hundred percent purity. It is not yet REALLY awareness; it must be mixed with unawareness. It is not pure light; there must be pockets of darkness inside you still working, functioning, influencing you, dominating you. If your love is without awareness, then it is not love yet. It must be something lower, something closer to lust than to prayer.
So let it be a criterion if you follow the path of awareness, let love be the criterion. When your awareness suddenly blooms into love, know perfectly well that awareness has happened, Samadhi has been achieved. If you follow the path of love, then let awareness function as a criterion, as a touchstone. When suddenly, from nowhere, at the very center of your love. a flame of awareness starts arising, know perfectly well…rejoice! You have come home.
Osho, last night you spoke about witnessing as a method; other times I have heard you speak about becoming a thing totally, being totally involved in any given situation. Usually, I am at a loss as to which of these two to follow: Whether to stand back and witness in a detached way or become something totally – for example, when there is anger or love or sadness. Are these not two opposite paths? Are they both for different kinds of situations or for different types of people? When should one do which?
There are two basic paths – only two. One is of surrendering and another is of willing: the path of surrender and the path of will. They are diametrically opposite as far as going through them is concerned. But they reach to the same goal; they reach to the same realization. So we have to understand a little more in detail.
The path of will starts with your witnessing Self. It is not concerned with your ego directly – only indirectly. To start witnessing, to be aware of your acts, is directly concerned with awakening your inner Self. If the inner Self is awakened, the ego disappears as a consequence. You are not to do anything with the ego directly. They cannot both exist simultaneously. If your Self is awakened, the ego will disappear. The path of will tries to awaken the inner center directly. Many, many methods are used. How to awaken the Self? We will discuss that.
The path of surrender is directly concerned with the ego, not with the Self. When the ego disappears, the inner Self is awakened automatically. The path of surrender is concerned with the ego immediately, directly. You are not to do anything to awaken your inner Self. You are just to surrender your ego. The moment ego is surrendered; you are left with your inner Self awakened.
Of course, these both will work in opposite directions, because one will be concerned with ego and one will be concerned with Self. Their methods, their techniques, will be opposite – and no one can follow both. There is no need to and that is impossible also. Everyone has to choose.
If you choose the path of will, then you are left alone to work upon yourself. It is an arduous thing. One has to struggle – to fight – to fight with old habits which create sleep. Then the only fight is against sleep, and the only ambition is for a deep awakening inside. Those who follow will, they know only one sin, and that sin is spiritual sleepiness.
Many are the techniques. I have discussed some. For example, Gurdjieff used a Sufi exercise. Sufis call it “halt”. For example, you are sitting here, and if you are practicing the exercise of “halt” it means total halt. Whenever the teacher says “Stop!” or “Halt!” then you have to stop totally whatsoever you are doing. If your eyes are open, then stop them there and then. Now you cannot close them.
If your hand is raised, let it be there. Whatsoever your position and gesture, just be frozen in it. No movements! Halt totally! Try this, and suddenly you will have an inner awakening – a feeling. Suddenly you will become aware of your own frozenness.
The whole body is frozen, you have become a solid stone, you are like a statue. But if you go on deceiving yourself, then you have fallen into sleep. You can deceive yourself. You can say, “Who is seeing me? I can close my eyes. They are becoming painful.” You can deceive yourself – then you have fallen into sleep. No – deception is sleep. Don’t deceive yourself, because no one else is concerned. It is up to you. If you can be frozen for a single moment you will begin to see yourself as different, and your center will become aware of your frozen body.
There are other ways. For example, Mahavir and his tradition have used fasting as a method to awaken the Self. If you fast, the body begins to demand, the body begins to overpower you. Mahavir has said, “Just witness – don’t do anything. You feel hungry, so feel hungry. The body asks for food – be a witness to it, don t do anything. Just be a witness to whatsoever is happening.” And it is a deep thing.
There are only two deep things in the body – sex and food. Nothing is more than these two, because food is needed for individual survival and sex is needed for race survival. Both are survival mechanisms. The individual cannot survive without food and the race cannot survive without sex. So sex is food for the race and food is sex for the individual. These are the deepest things because they are concerned with your survival – the most basic things. You will die without them.
So if you are fasting and just witnessing, then you have touched the deepest sleep. And if you can witness without being identified or bothered – the body is suffering, the body is hungry, the body is demanding and you are just witnessing – suddenly the body will be different. There will be a discontinuity between you and the body; there will be a gap.
Fasting has been used by Mahavir. Mohammedans have used vigilance in the night – no sleep!
Don’t sleep for a week and then you will know how sleepy the whole being becomes, how difficult it is to maintain this vigilance. But if one persists, suddenly a moment comes when the body and you are torn apart. Then you can see that the body needs sleep – it is not your need.
Many are the methods to work directly to create more awareness in yourself, to bring yourself above your so-called sleepy existence. No surrender is needed. Rather, one has to fight against surrender. No surrender is needed, because this is a path of struggle not of surrender. Because of this path, Mahavir was given the name “Mahavir”. “Mahavir” means “the great warrior”. This was not his name. His name was Vardhaman. He was called Mahavir because he was a great warrior as far as this inner struggle is concerned. He had no Guru, no Master, because it is a lonely path. Even to take somebody’s help is not good – it may become your sleep.
There is a story: Mahavir was fasting and remaining silent for years together. In a certain village some mischievous people were disturbing him, harassing him, and he was on a vow of silence.
He was beaten so many times because he would not speak and he remained naked – completely naked. So the villagers were at a loss to understand who he was. And he would not speak! And moreover he was naked! So from one village to another village he would be thrown out, made to leave the village.
The story says Indra, the King of gods, came to him and said to Mahavir, “I can defend you. It has become so painful. You are being beaten unnecessarily, so just allow me to defend you.”
Mahavir rejected the help. Later on, when he was asked why he rejected the help, he said, “This path of will is a lonely path. You cannot even have a helper with you because then the struggle loosens. Then the struggle becomes partial. Then you can depend on someone else, and wherever there is dependence sleep comes in. One has to be totally independent; only then can one be awake.
This is one path, one basic attitude.
All these methods of witnessing belong to this path. So when I say, “Be a witness.” it is meant for those who are travelers on the path of will.
Quite the opposite is the method of surrender. Surrender is concerned with your ego, not with your Self. In surrender you have to give up yourself. Of course, you cannot give the Self; that is impossible.
Whatsoever you can give is bound to be your ego. Only the ego can be given – because it is just incidental to you. It is not even a part of your being, just something added. It is a possession. Of course, the possessor has also become possessed by it. But it is a possession, it is a property – it is not you.
The path of surrender says, “Surrender your ego to the Teacher, to the Divine, to a Buddha.” When someone comes to Buddha and says, “Buddham Sharanam Gauchhami” – I take shelter at your feet. I surrender myself at Buddha’s feet,” what is he doing? The Self cannot be surrendered, so leave it out. Whatsoever you can surrender is your ego. That is your possession; you can surrender it. If you can surrender your ego to someone, it makes no difference to whom – X, Y or Z. The person to be surrendered to is irrelevant in a way. The real thing is surrendering. So you can surrender to a God in the sky. Whether He is there or not is irrelevant. If a concept of the Divine in the sky can help you to surrender your ego, then it is a good device.
Really, yoga shastras say that God is a device to be surrendered to – just a device! So you need not bother whether God is or not. He is just a device, because it will be difficult for you to surrender in a vacuum. So let there be a God, and you surrender. Even a false device can help. For example, you see a rope on the street and you think that it is a snake. It moves like a snake. You are afraid, you are trembling, you are running. You begin to perspire, and your perspiration is real. And there is no snake – there is just a rope mistaken for a snake.
The yoga sutras say that God is a just a device to be surrendered to. Whether God is or is not is not meaningful; you need not bother about it. If He is, you will come to know through surrender. You need not be bothered about it before surrender. If He is, then you will know; if He is not, then you will know. So no discussion, no argument, no proof is needed. And it is very beautiful: they say He is a device, just a hypothetical thing to which you can surrender yourself, to help you surrender.
So a Teacher can become a god; a Teacher is a god. Unless you feel a Teacher as a god, you cannot surrender. Surrendering becomes possible if you feel that Mahavir is a god, Buddha is a god. Then you can surrender easily. Whether a Buddha is a god or not is irrelevant. Again, it is a device, it helps.
Buddha is known to have said that every truth is a device to help; every truth is just a utility. If it works, it is true. And there is no other basis for calling it true or untrue – if it works, it is true!
On the path of surrender, surrendering is the only technique. There are many techniques on the path of will, because you can make many efforts to awaken yourself. But when one is just to surrender, there are no methods. […]
These are completely, diametrically opposite standpoints. But just in the beginning and while on the path – they reach to the same thing. Either surrender your ego – then you have not to do anything. You have to do only one thing: surrender your ego. Then you have not to do anything. Then everything will begin to happen. If you cannot surrender then you will have to do much, because then you are on your own to fight, struggle.
Both paths are valid, and there is no question of which is better. It depends on the person who is following. It depends on your type. […]
The path of will is just like naturopathy – you have to depend upon yourself. No help! The path of surrender is more like allopathy – you can use medicines.
Think of it in this way: when someone is ill, he has two things – an inner, positive possibility of health and an accidental or incidental phenomenon of disease, illness. Naturopathy is not concerned with illness directly. Naturopathy is directly concerned with a positive growth of health. So grow in health! Naturopathy means growing in health positively. When you grow in health, the disease will disappear by itself. You need not be concerned with disease directly.
Allopathy is not concerned with positive health at all. It is concerned with the illness: destroy the illness and you will be healthy automatically.
The path of will is concerned with growing in positive awareness. If you grow, the ego will disappear – that is the disease. The path of surrender is concerned with the disease itself, not with positive growth in health. Destroy the disease – surrender the ego – and you will grow in health.
The path of surrender is allopathic and the path of will is naturopathic. […]
Meher Baba has talked about God descending in man (Avatar, Rasool, Christ) and man rising to be God (The Perfect Master, Sadguru, Qutub, Teerthankara). Would you please talk to us about the same.
God is. He neither ascends nor descends. Where can he ascend to and where can he descend to? God is all. There is nothing in to which God can ascend or descend. There is nobody else other than God. All that is, is divine. So the first thing: there is no ascendence, no descendence.
But when Meher Baba says it, there must be some meaning in it. The meaning is something quite different. Let me explain it to you.
God is, remember. God is a pure isness, pure existence, and there is nowhere for God to go or come. The whole is full of him. He fills his existence, one thing. Second thing: but Meher Baba must be true. Then there must be some other meaning to it—not God descending and ascending. What can be the meaning? The meaning is there are two ways of man approaching God.
What do I mean by “man” when God is the only reality? Man is the God who has forgotten that he is God; man is a God who has forgotten himself.
Man can remember his godliness in two ways. One way is that of surrender, devotion, love, prayer; another way is that of will, effort, meditation, yoga. If a man tries to work his way through will, then he will feel he is ascending towards God or he is reaching towards God through his will. Hence Jainas call the man who attains to godliness a Teerthankara.
Teerthankara means consciousness has reached the peak; man has arrived by ascending, as if there has been a ladder, the ladder of the will, the ladder of effort and yoga. So is the concept of the Buddhas; that too is the path of will. Avatar means God descending; that is another approach, when a man surrenders. He cannot ascend. He simply opens his heart and waits, prays and waits, and suddenly he starts feeling a stirring in his heart. Certainly he will see “God has descended in me.” Avatar means descendence, God coming down.
Mahavir went up. For Meera, God came down.
But God never comes down, never goes up. God is where he is. But your experience will be different. If you try hard to achieve God, you will go higher and higher and higher; naturally you will feel the God hidden inside you is arising, rising up, reaching to the zenith.
But if you surrender, nothing is arising in you. You are where you are, you simply wait in deep prayer, in deep love, in deep trust, and one day you find God is descending in you, coming from above. These are the experiences of two types of seekers. It has nothing to do with God. It has something to do with the seeker and his way: will or surrender, effort or prayer, yoga or Bhakti.
So the religions which believe in Bhakti, in devotion … Christianity says Christ comes from God. That is the meaning of saying that he is God’s son — he comes from above, he has been sent. And that is the meaning of Mohammed — he is a prophet, a messenger, Paigambar. Paigambar means a messenger who comes from above, brings the message. He does not belong to this world; he comes like a ray of light into the darkness. And so is the concept of the Hindus’ avatar—Krishna, Ram — they come, they come into the world.
The Buddhist, the Jaina concept is just the reverse. They say there is no God to come, and God is not a father and he cannot have a son. These are all very childish concepts for them. And if you look through their eyes they are; these concepts are childish, very anthropomorphic, man-centered. You create God in your own image, as if God also has a family. He has a family — the Trinity: God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost must be a woman; otherwise the family will not be exactly as it should be.
But why don’t Christians call the Holy Ghost a woman? Male chauvinism. They cannot make a woman also part of the Trinity; it is difficult for them, very difficult for them. So to what have they reduced their God? It seems to be a homosexual family: all men, not a single woman there. It looks ugly. But my feeling is that the Holy Ghost must be a woman. We create God in our own image.
Jainas and Buddhists say that there is no God and there is no God’s family and nobody comes from there. Then what has one to do? One has to arise. God is in you like a seed, as a tree arises from the earth and goes higher and higher. God is not like rain falling, but a tree arising. Man has the seed. Man is potentially God. So when you work hard, you start growing.
These are the two concepts. That’s why Meher Baba says, “… God descending in man (Avatar, Rasool, Christ) and man rising to be God (the Perfect Master, Sadguru, Qutub, Teerthankara).” But it has nothing to do with God.
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.
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.
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.