When you turn your head from horizon to horizon your eyes see a vast space in which all the things of the earth and of the sky appear. But this space is always limited where the earth meets the sky. The space in the mind is so small. In this little space all our activities seem to take place: the daily living and the hidden struggles with contradictory desires and motives. In this little space the mind seeks freedom, and so it is always a prisoner of itself.
Meditation is the ending of this little space. To us, action is bringing about order in this little space of the mind. But there is another action which is not putting order in this little space. Meditation is action which comes when the mind has lost its little space. This vast space which the mind, the I, cannot reach, is silence. The mind can never be silent within itself; it is silent only within the vast space which thought cannot touch. Out of this silence there is action which is not of thought. Meditation is this silence.
When we look into the mirror, we see an image and because of memory we identify with that image as ourselves. With just a little bit of self-awareness, we know that the image that we see is not our real self but just a reflection.
It is the same with the images of thoughts and feelings. We perceive those images and identify thus creating ME. We then hold these images in memory and thus the ego is born. Thereafter, when we look out into the world, we first look through that collection of memory known as ME. It passes through the prism of collected past impressions.
But if we carefully examine the situation, we understand that those thoughts and feelings are just images on a screen, and with self-awareness, we experience the perceiving and know that I am not that which is being perceived. Now the ME has begun to lose its grip. Of course, the grip that the ME has is only what we give. It has no power of its own. It is inanimate.
Just as we do not walk around holding a mirror in front of us to relate to the world, we can also drop the mirror of ME. Now the world is That which Is.
This is from the collection of stories, essays, poems and insights that is compiled to form the book From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva. Order the book Here.
Questioner: In my view, the guru is one who awakens me to the truth, to reality. What is wrong with my talking to such a guru?
J. Krishnamurti: This question arises because I have said that gurus are an impediment to truth. Don’t say you are wrong and I am right, or I am wrong and you are right, but let us examine the problem and find out. Let us inquire like mature, thoughtful people, without denying and without justifying.
Which is more important, the guru or you? And why do you go to a guru? You say, ”To be awakened to truth.” Are you really going to a guru to be awakened to the truth? Let us think this out very clearly. Surely, when you go to a guru you are actually seeking gratification. That is, you have a problem and your life is a mess; it is in confusion, and because you want to escape from it, you go to somebody whom you call a guru to find consolation verbally or to escape an ideation. That is the actual process, and that process you call seeking truth.
That is, you want comfort, you want gratification, you want your confusion cleared away by somebody, and the person who helps you to find escapes you call a guru. Actually, not theoretically, you look to a guru who will assure you of what you want. You go guru-hunting as you go window-shopping: You see what suits you best and then buy it. In India, that is the position: You go around hunting for gurus, and when you find one you hold on to his feet or neck or hand until he gratifies you. To touch a man’s feet – that is one of the most extraordinary things. You touch the guru’s feet and kick your servants, and thereby you destroy human beings, you lose human significance.
So, you go to a guru to find gratification, not truth. The idea may be that he should awaken you to truth, but the actual fact is that you find comfort. Why? Because you say, ”I can’t solve my problem, somebody must help me.” Can anybody help you solve the confusion which you have created? What is confusion? Confusion with regard to what? Suffering with regard to what? Confusion and suffering exist in your relationship with things, people, and ideas; and if you cannot understand that confusion which you have created, how can another help you? He can tell you what to do, but you have to do it yourself, it is your own responsibility; and because you are unwilling to take that responsibility, you sneak off to the guru – that is the right expression to use, ”sneak off” – and you think you have solved the problem.
On the contrary, you have not solved it at all; you have escaped, but the problem is still there. And, strangely, you always choose a guru who will assure you of what you want; therefore, you are not seeking truth, and therefore the guru is not important. You are actually seeking someone who will satisfy you in your desires; that is why you create a leader, religious or political, and give yourself over to him, and that is why you accept his authority. Authority is evil, whether religious or political, because it is the leader and his position that are all-important, and you are unimportant. You are a human being with sorrow, pain, suffering, joy, and when you deny yourself and give yourself over to somebody, you are denying reality because it is only through yourself that you can find reality, not through somebody else.
Now, you say that you accept a guru as one who awakens you to reality. Let us find out if it is possible for another to awaken you to reality. I hope you are following all this because it is your problem, not mine. Let us find out the truth about whether another can awaken you to reality. Can I, who have been talking for an hour and a half, awaken you to reality, to that which is real? The term guru implies, does it not, a man who leads you to truth, to happiness, to bliss eternal. Is truth a static thing that someone can lead you to? Someone can direct you to the station.
Is truth like that – static, something permanent to which you can be led? It is static only when you create it out of your desire for comfort. But truth is not static; nobody can lead you to truth. Beware of the person who says he can lead you to truth because it is not true. Truth is something unknown from moment to moment; it cannot be captured by the mind, it cannot be formulated, it has no resting place.
Therefore, no one can lead you to truth. You may ask me, ”Why are you talking here?” All that I am doing is pointing out to you what is and how to understand what is as it is, not as it should be. I am not talking about the ideal but about a thing that is actually right in front of you, and it is for you to look and see it. Therefore, you are more important than I, more important than any teacher, any savior, any slogan, any belief, because you can find truth only through yourself, not through another. When you repeat the truth of another, it is a lie.
Truth cannot be repeated. All that you can do is to see the problem as it is and not escape. When you see the thing as it actually is, then you begin to awaken, but not when you are compelled by another. There is no savior but yourself. When you have the intention and the attention to look directly at what is, then your very attention awakens you because in attention everything is implied. To give attention, you must be devoted to what is, and to understand what is, you must have knowledge of it. Therefore, you must look, observe, give it your undivided attention, for all things are contained in that full attention you give to what is.
So, the guru cannot awaken you; all that he can do is to point out what is. Truth is not a thing that can be caught by the mind. The guru can give you words; he can give you an explanation, the symbols of the mind, but the symbol is not the real, and if you are caught in the symbol, you will never find the way. Therefore, that which is important is not the teacher, it is not the symbol, it is not the explanation, but it is you who are seeking truth.
To seek rightly is to give attention, not to God, not to truth, because you don’t know it, but attention to the problem of your relationship with your wife, your children, your neighbor. When you establish right relationship then you love truth, for truth is not a thing that can be bought, truth does not come into being through self-immolation or through the repetition of mantras. Truth comes into being only when there is self-knowledge.
Self-knowledge brings understanding, and when there is understanding, there are no problems. When there are no problems, then the mind is quiet, it is no longer caught up in its own creations. When the mind is not creating problems, when it understands each problem immediately as it arises, then it is utterly still, not made still. This total process is awareness, and it brings about a state of undisturbed tranquility which is not the outcome of any discipline, of any practice or control, but is the natural outcome of understanding every problem as it arises.
Problems arise only in relationship, and when there is understanding of one’s relationship with things, with people, and with ideas, then there is no disturbance of any kind in the mind, and the thought process is silent. In that state there is neither the thinker nor the thought, the observer nor the observed.
Therefore, the thinker ceases, and then the mind is no longer caught in time, and when there is no time, the timeless comes into being. But the timeless cannot be thought of. The mind, which is the product of time, cannot think of that which is timeless. Thought cannot conceive or formulate that which is beyond thought. When it does, its formulation is still part of thought.
Therefore, eternity is not a thing of the mind; eternity comes into being only when there is love, for love in itself is eternal. Love is not something abstract to be thought about; love is to be found only in relationship with your wife, your children, your neighbor. When you know that love which is unconditional, which is not the product of the mind, then reality comes into being, and that state is utter bliss.
Sometime in the early 90’s, my friend Santap moved to Boulder, Colorado, and after settling in, made arrangements to bring Dada Gavand, a teacher that he had spent some time with in California, to town. He was sponsoring the visit and Dada would be staying with Santap in his mountain home. Dada’s visit coincided with my own inward turn and interest in self-inquiry as a spiritual practice. I read his books and very much appreciated his keen insight. They were prodding me in.
Santap needed some help with the organizing and I was happy to assist. Dada primarily taught through one-on-one interviews but he did do a few public talks. Santap spread the word of Dada’s upcoming visit and organized a list of interested people for the interviews. Together we set up a public talk.
Dada did not enjoy the cold. He arrived from somewhere warm but was going to be staying in the Rockies at about 9,000, feet in the fall. Amido and I offered to host Dada down in town if he wanted, but he liked to stay with people he knew.
Amido and I had an interview together, and this meeting with Dada was very helpful for me. Up to that point, I was still thinking of “going inside” as a journey, as a movement through some imaginary inner space. I don’t remember the exact words that were said but there was a shift, and I understood for the first time that “going inside means not going at all.” This was a major insight. Dada recognized that a shift had happened and later suggested to Santap that he would like to spend half of his time in Boulder with us.
It was a complete joy to be with him in the house even at the requested ninety-degree temperature. One thing I found interesting was that we would be sitting and chatting around the dinner table and suddenly some kind of shift would happen. The atmosphere would change and there would be a palpable silence. It was almost as if a presence had descended, or the entire room had been lifted to a higher dimension, and he would then speak as the spiritual teacher. Even his speaking mannerisms would alter. He began to use the first-person plural and say “we” rather than “I” in those moments.
Dada’s story is quite unique. He had been part of the Theosophical Society and known U.G. Krishnamurti before either one of them experienced their transformations. They met up after those experiences, and it was at the urging and even help of U.G. that Dada set off for the States. Dada had also spent time with Meher Baba and J. Krishnamurti.
His teaching has the directness of Krishnamurti combined with the heart of being of Meher Baba. The following is from his book Towards the Unknown, beginning on page 57:
The imaginative and fragmentary mind can never discover that dynamic, effervescent energy of eternal, timeless quality. The mind is the product of time. Whereas Godhood is timeless divine.
The dead past cannot contact the living present. Time cannot contact the timeless. Shadow cannot contact light. Contracted polarity cannot contact enormity.
He continues on page 62:
At the cost of your own life force the mind is misusing energy, scattering it everywhere in a very clever and subtle way, in petty little pursuits and self-intoxicating drives.
And page 63:
By close and alert watching of all the movements of body and mind, you will discover that the constant ripples of thought on our life energy are the cause of disquiet.
He concludes with page 68:
You cannot meet God through the mind, nor experience the timeless through time. Thought cannot meet the omniscient. The eternal cannot touch the transient.
Only with freedom from thought and from mental cravings and ambitions does the energy become whole, tranquil and pure.
Such inner purity and humility will invite the hidden divinity.
The pure consolidated energy, with its silence and fullness within, awaits in readiness to meet the divine, to experience that which is beyond the mind.
There across the region of time, beyond the frontiers of the mind, within the sanctuary of silence resides the supreme intelligence, your Lord, the timeless divine.
At the end of his stay, Santap and I took Dada to the airport. I was, of course, sad to see him go; such a sweet friendliness had surrounded us. We said goodbye and Dada boarded the plane with his carry-on. He believed in carrying his own baggage even in his late 70’s.
A few years later, after Amido and I had moved from Boulder to Crestone, Colorado, we talked to Dada on the phone with the idea of bringing him there, but it wasn’t to be. And in 2007, while traveling in India we emailed his contact person, thinking perhaps we would visit, but he was in silence and not accepting visitors. Dada left his body in 2012. Thank you Dadaji.
This is from the collection of stories, essays, poems and insights that is compiled to form the book From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva. Order the book Here.
Why did Osho change the traditional order used for the Three Jewels? At first, I wondered if it was just a mistake that Sheela had made when introducing us to them, but later I found discourses in which Osho referred to them in the order that was presented to us.
Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami – I take refuge in the Awakened One
Sangham Sharanam Gachchhami – I take refuge in the Community of the Awakened One
Dhammam Sharanam Gachchhami – I take refuge in the Ultimate Teaching of the Awakened One
Traditionally they are said with Dhammam preceding Sangham. Each of us will have our own insight as to why he changed them, but regardless of why, this is the order his work has operated on me.
First it was I bow down to the Buddha, to the Master. This is the easiest. Who cannot but bow down to the Master once the Master is met? For me this is what took place in what we refer to as Poona One. It was all Him. He gave us meditations. He gave us daily discourses. He guided us through our personal issues during darshan. He then began working on us in energy darshans and finally introduced us to Satsang.
Sangham Sharanam Gachchhami was more difficult and for some almost impossible. To surrender to the commune is much more arduous because often it means saying yes to stupidity. But it is that saying yes to stupidity that is intelligence because one understands that it is transformative. It is surrender. Surrender means putting aside the conditioning and saying yes. This then lessens the grip that the conditioning has on oneself. In fact, it lessens the grip of oneself. One can let go of conditioning only with awareness. One does not say yes because of a need for appreciation, a hunger for position or power, but in the understanding that it is here the transformation takes hold. It is here awareness is strengthened and the ego begins to lose its grip.
When I saw Osho take off in the plane from the runway at Rajneeshpuram, I knew at that moment I would never see him again. This was the beginning of Dhamma, the ultimate truth of the Awakened One. What does it mean to surrender to the ultimate truth? It is when one starts being the teaching. One starts living the understanding in one’s own light.
The beginning of living the understanding didn’t immediately start at that moment of watching the plane take off; it took a little time. I was still involved with the distribution of Osho’s books. We had to move the books to Colorado and set up distribution anew. And then because of conflict with the organization, I moved further and further away, until finally I was standing on my own. The call of the inner guru was heard.
For the first time the spark of inquiry was lit. Up to that point, I had meditated but it was witnessing phenomena: sensations, thoughts, or feelings. Now, the consciousness was seeking its source. This is what I believe to be conversion. It is here that surrender to Dhamma begins. To me this means Self-Inquiry. It is the movement from seeking to inquiring. It is the movement from the outer guru to the inner guru. Up to this point, one is living on borrowed bliss. From this point on, one is relying on one’s own light of understanding that has been lit by Buddha, strengthened by Sangha, and is now being stabilized in Dhamma.
This does not mean that one is no longer open to the understanding being expressed through the Masters; on the contrary one is more open than ever. And once the contact with the inner guru is established, there is no fear whether some teaching is valid or not, because it is seen from one’s own understanding. There is clarity. The understanding is experienced for oneself; it is acted upon. Even more accurately, it can be said that the understanding itself, the seeing itself, is the acting, is the transformation. It is in the fire of this Being Understanding that the “me” is consumed, impression by impression, “Gathe gathe para gathe parasam gathe. Bodhi svaha!” (Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. O what an awakening all-hail!)
Everyone passes through the Three Jewels at their own pace. What is important is that we don’t linger too long on the way and that we continue, until finally, we are living the Dhamma, being a light unto ourself.
Postscript – It occurs to me that there are many who reading “Be a light unto ourselves” will think that it is ironic for those of us who have lived with a master, who have lived as part of a commune, to place importance on being a light unto ourselves.
To those, I would say that is precisely what drew us to the flame. We had become aware that until we were capable of separating ourselves from this conditioning, we would not be that light. We had already discovered that our minds were filled with conditioning – by our parents, the society, the churches, the politicians, and the schools.
We could also see that anyone who has not managed to extricate themselves from that conditioning is simply incapable of being their own light because it is through that conditioning, that mind, which one sees the world, acts and reacts. Is it any wonder that we live in a world in conflict? And we found that meditation is the means of brain washing (de-conditioning). Meditation is not a learning, rather an unlearning, which in the end uncovers the original face.
Be ye lamps unto yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves.
Hold fast to Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the Truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves.
And those, who shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, they shall reach the topmost height.
Buddha’s Farewell Message to Ananda
This is from the collection of stories, essays, poems and insights that is compiled to form the book From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva. Order the book Here.
Alexander: There was a moment in your life, probably when you were three of four years old, when you began to experience yourself as something different from the perceivingness. A moment in which you made a swingover to an “I,” that is to say, to a “person,” a self consciousness.
What you know about yourself is what you remember about yourself. The person, the “I,” consists of nothing but memory pictures from the past. Unlike the images which you make of yourself, awareness does not need any memory. Therefore, all that you know about yourself, and that which you take yourself to be, is old; it is the past. Memory cannot perceive anything new, whereas awareness can. That which you take yourself to be and with which you may identify yourself, are curdled experiences consisting purely and simply of memory pictures. Your so-called experiences are always past. Necessarily the past, for what you know about yourself is derived from memory and is memory. The memory is able to retrieve through images that which is past. But something that is past is not the reality. At best, it is a mental reality. That reality, however, is only short-lived and will eventually dissolve in the awareness.
What sort of reality does the person, composed by you from the past, possess? The reality which you attribute to that past consists of thoughts, mental images, ideas, and concepts. Those images seem to overshadow the reality that you are actually living. Because of that you are living in a world of delusion instead of in the reality. Only the power of discrimination can free you from that. That is why Advaita emphasizes viveka so much, the ability to discriminate between what is delusion and what is reality.
The person, that “somebody” which you have created, cannot be replaced by the concept of “nobody.”
Visitor: That is precisely the point. What I have done is to replace the “somebody” by a “nobody.”
A: It is sufficient to see that what you call the “somebody” or the “person”—that is to say, all the material with which you could identify yourself—is the old, the memory, pictures, and that these do not have any reality. They do have some form of reality, but that reality, in turn, is being attributed by other images again. The reality you are actually living is free from delusion.
V: I can see that.
A: It isn’t a question of your seeing it: It’s a question of your being there—always.
V: I remember quite well, when I first came here, that you said, “There has got to be a knowing.” My question is: Who knows it?
A: Do you need a “who” in order to know that? At best, the knowing is conscious of a “who,” but there certainly isn’t a “who” that is conscious of the knowing.
V: That knowing happens through the body.
A: Now, if the body is dead, then what does the body know?
V: Then the knowing also isn’t there.
A: So the knowing is the body? The body is still there after death, but the knowing has gone. The knowing does have something to do with the body, but it is not the body. When someone dies, the one who is afraid of dying will disappear. For then it is actually happening, so he needn’t be afraid of it anymore. The one who has the fear of passing away will disappear along with the passing away. It can never take long. You needn’t be afraid of death—the fear will go together with death. If you are afraid to lose your finger, then the fear will have disappeared the moment that you have actually lost it. Those fears are not substantial, not real. In the reality fear disappears. More people have died from the fear of death that through death itself…
V: I am still left with the question of whether the knowing isn’t actually tied up with a “somebody.”
A: No, it isn’t.
V: You are saying. Things happen within the consciousness.
A: Yes, but you can’t make consciousness into an object, into a thing. By making a noun of it, it would seem as if qualities may be attributed to it.
V: When Self realization takes place, will there be a “somebody” then who knows it?
A: It is that very “somebody” which will disappear with Self realization. But there isn’t going to be a “nobody” to take its place.
V: Then who knows?
A: There is only the knowing. There isn’t a “somebody” who knows, nor is there a “nobody” who knows. There is only knowingness, love, consciousness. Once a person came here. After one meeting he said, “I know enough. I get it.” “All right,” I said, and I never saw him again.
To see it only once is sufficient. Knowing is sufficient unto itself. Then there is always something that has to go with it—stories, dramas, ideas, philosophy, etc. Ignorance always needs to be supported, because it cannot stand on its own. The knowing-ness which you are, doesn’t need any support. No guru, no disciple, no commentary, no confirmation, not a single reflection.
Self realization is self-sufficient; that is the beauty of it. The whole guru-disciple relationship also is transcended along with it. The reality—that which you really are—is sufficient unto itself. It doesn’t need anyone’s confirmation, not even the confirmation of the teacher or the guru. But until the last moment you will not stop to seek the grace, the blessing, the approval, the confirmation of the guru as the father.
Only the reality which you are actually living suffices. Self realization is self sufficient. That realization can never be confirmed by anything from outside, by an authority, by an outsider. Someone who is truly Self realized doesn’t run into the trap of self complacency, thinking, “I’m enlightened, I don’t need anybody anymore.” It is very subtle . . . Profound knowing will ultimately become silence.
You have to understand that the “person” is obsessive. You can’t tell the memory, “Stop producing images!” Memory simply produces what it produces. In fact, it is producing a three-dimensional delusion. There is only one thing which is staying out of the delusion, and that is the perceivingness. No wonder that is where the emphasis needs to be put. From the delusion you will never be able to realize what that perceivingness is. The will has no grip on the memory and, therefore, not on the “person,” either. They can’t just disappear. Memory simply continues to deliver. You may forgive but not forget. To forget is not an act of the will. The brains are simply doing their job. That is how it works; that’s the reality.
Thus I see only one possibility, and I’m asking you: Are you able to see that which is beyond memory? That is the perceivingness, the knowingness. That is why Advaita would like to see you moving into that direction.
V: What matters—looking at it from the subject—is to shift the point of gravity.
A: To shift the point of gravity from constantly trying to get a grip on the knowingness from the delusion—to the knowingness itself, to the real essence. That is what matters in these meetings.
V: And all the whirlings produced by the memory are to be viewed from the perceivingness as being more or less irrelevant.
A: No, no, no! That again is a judgment, and undesirable involvement. What matters is the fact that you are choicelessly aware. The word “choiceless” isn’t just anything: It means to be without discrimination, without preference or aversion. Without judgment, for the perceivingness is choiceless.
V: So you let everything pass by?
A: Let me put it this way: Whoever realizes the perceivingness cannot but live and look from that. The possibility to judge remains completely available, but condemnation will prove to be impossible.
V: Everybody is pushing you into the reality value of the person. Is it possible to avoid that?
A: No, it isn’t. Try to see that you are not a person yourself. That is sufficient and that will do the job.
Taken from Consciousness
This excerpt was originally seen in Inner Directions Journal, Spring/Summer 2005.
The following is an interview with Kirk Braun, a reporter for the Portland newspaper The Oregonian, which took place in Osho’s Lao Tzu House, Rajneeshpuram, Oregon in 1983. I have taken the liberty of substituting the word O-theism for Rajneeshism as Osho himself substituted Osho for the name Rajneesh to illustrate that He who is speaking is not limited to the body seen (never born, never died), O-theism is not limited to the body teaching, nor even time nor place.
Q: What is your vision for the future of O-theism?
Osho: O-theism is not a religion like Christianity, Hinduism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, etc. The name should not be misunderstood. It simply shows a poverty of language – to be exactly true, O-theism is a religionless religion. In other words it is a kind of religiousness, not a dogma, cult or creed but only a quality of love, silence, meditation and prayerfulness. Hence it can never end.
It is not beginning with me. It has always existed, and it will always exist. It is the very essence of human evolution, of culture consciousness. Buddha, Jesus or Krishna are nothing but expressions of this spirit, but it was not possible in those days for religion to be manifested as well as it can be now. Because Jesus did not know about Buddha, Buddha did not know about Lao Tzu, and Krishna was also unaware of Lao Tzu, etc.
I have traveled all the paths and have looked at the truth from all the windows. What I am saying is going to last forever because nothing more could be added to it.
Buddha was not so sure of his religion. He said that his religion would last for 5,000 years, and that too only if he didn’t allow women to join his commune. And when women entered his commune he said, “Now the religion will only last 500 years.”
All of these people have talked about some aspect of truth and their disciples have understood it as the whole truth. I am talking about the whole truth so the future of my religion is infinite. All other religions will disappear into it as all the rivers disappear into the ocean.
Q: Will the world make any progress in the area of human understanding?
Osho: Certainly. In fact, the time in which we are living is of tremendous importance. A revolution in human consciousness is no more a luxury; it has become an absolute need as there are only two alternatives – suicide or a quantum leap in consciousness, which Nietzsche called superman. And I absolutely believe that nobody wants to choose suicide. Up to now man has been surviving without transformation because there was no urgency for change. Nuclear weapons have brought a great urgency for a choice of now or never. There is a simple law that life wants to survive, so in my vision humanity is going to take the same significant change that the monkeys made when monkeys became human.
Q: Do you think O-theists will survive the predicted nuclear holocaust and if so, how?
Osho: As I said earlier monkeys took a jump and became human beings, but not all monkeys did. The remaining ones are still monkeys so let me put your question in a different way.
I will not say that all O-theists will survive the holocaust, but I can say with an absolute guarantee that those who will survive will be the O-theists and the remaining will be monkeys or commit suicide. In fact, the remaining don’t matter.
[NOTE: This was first published in The Rajneesh Times, 19th August 1983 while Osho was in silence.]
An interview with Roy Whenary given by Ben Hassine
Can you give us a short biographical sketch with emphasis on the spiritual aspect of your life? For example which teachers and teachings inspired you and can you recount some of your encounters with them?
I don’t know if it’s possible to do this without over-emphasizing the ‘personal’, so briefly I will mention my main influences as J. Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Jean Klein. I came across Krishnamurti when I was 20, and reading his books and attending his talks had a profound effect on me. After reading a lot of varied spiritual literature before that, Krishnamurti was like a breath of fresh air … uncomplicated, obvious and clear from the start. At Brockwood Park and Saanen, I met many new friends, with whom there would be endless discussions about things, albeit adopting Krishnamurti-like terminology. Then, in the mid-70s I was made aware of an Indian publication, which was not easily available in London at the time. It was called ‘I Am That’ and was by Nisargadatta Maharaj. I had previously read Advaita books by Ramana Maharshi, but somehow ‘I Am That’ had more of an effect on me. What that was, I don’t know. Maybe it was because it was more contemporary to the time, whereas Ramana’s works were from another era. Although I had met a few people who had sat with Ramana, I was often meeting people who had been to see Nisargadatta. However, I was never tempted to go to India in person, understanding from the start that there was nothing that was available there which was not already available here. In the early 70s, I also met Vimala Thakar, who was very popular in Holland. I first met her in 1972, then 1974 and in 1976 spent a week on retreat with her in England. Many of the people I met on that retreat I am still in contact with. I found Vimala to be very attentive to my sensitivity, and awake to my need for personal contact with her, and we had several helpful chats about what now would seem to be very basic questions I had at the time, but her response to me was very warm and open. In 1980, the lady who organized Vimala’s visits to the UK informed me that there was another teacher who was very much worth going to see, called Jean Klein. It turned out that she was organizing his visits too. I went along to a talk he gave at Friends Meeting House, Hampstead, in London, and was immediately impressed by his calm presence and clarity of mind. There was a lot of silence in his talks, and at the time his English was not so brilliant, although it improved over the next few years, as he came to England more frequently. At one time I offered to drive him around when he was here, which was accepted – so I would take him to and pick him up from the airport and drive him to restaurants for meals, etc – a job that I did for a couple of years, quite willingly – although we never talked about spiritual philosophy at all during these times. I found that in his presence there were no questions, and all was self-evident. I really feel that he had no agenda at all. He wasn’t out to convince anyone of anything . . . it was a case of here it is . . . take it or leave it. I couldn’t help contrast this approach, and his calm presence, with that of Krishnamurti, who was much more passionate and lively in every sense, and maybe a little angry at times. This was the complete opposite to Jean Klein, and yet Jean, who had spent some time travelling with Krishnamurti many years earlier in India, always heaped the highest praise on Krishnamurti, and Vimala Thakar for that matter. I remember him describing Vimala Thakar as “a beautiful Being”.
You spent a longer period of time with Jean Klein. Can you go a little bit deeper into the affect this teacher had on your outlook on life and spirituality at that time? [Please note I am referring to the affect Jean had at the time you met him, so we are going into history and are not yet covering your current outlook]
Well, I spent just as long listening to Krishnamurti, and they both had a profound effect, maybe in different ways. I don’t know even if it is the words that had the greatest affect on me . . . because the presence of these two teachers had at least an equal affect. With Krishnamurti one could not ignore how seriously he took the spiritual life and how passionate he was about everything he said. His presence was over-powering in that sense. With Jean, it was his quiet, calm, simple and direct clarity of expression that impressed. He showed, by his own example, how utterly available and effortless ‘realization’ is. He was not a man of ideas, he was a man of wisdom, and there is a great difference between the two. When you have met a true man of wisdom, you are never again fooled by men of ideas.
Yes I think I can understand what you are saying. I would like to go into it later on. Still you didn’t answer my question. What exactly was this affect you are speaking about? How did Krishnamurti and Klein change the way you saw life and spirituality?
Sorry to sound so evasive, but I was 19 or 20 when I first came across Krishnamurti, and there wasn’t much to change, I suppose. I had not formed any fixed view or attitude by then, so I sort of grew up with Krishnamurti in that sense. It is not like someone suddenly coming across this approach when they are 40 or 50 years old, having lived a life and made mistakes, etc. At 16 or 17, I started reading Kahil Gibran and some Buddhist and Hindu literature, just out of interest. I came across them in my local bookstore, and began exploring different ideas. I also started reading Plato and the Socratian dialogues . . . and when I first came across Krishnamurti I noticed a distinct similarity between his philosophy and that of Socrates. But the effect that it had on me? I suppose it gave me a clear direction, when many of my contemporaries were getting into heavy rock music, relationships, carving out a career, etc. I always preferred a quiet life, and especially walking in nature, to experimentation or planning too much for the future. Krishnamurti clearly helped me in that direction and Jean Klein deepened that tendency. I suppose that what these teachers were giving was a route into the deeper layers of mind and feeling, which gives rise to conscious awareness.
Yes. The deep layers of mind and feeling. I feel that at a certain point one will face not only the deeper layers of mind and feeling but also the deep layers of the body. Jean Klein’s approach also included ‘body-work’. Did this part of his teaching appeal to you? Can you expand a little on this aspect?
Yes, it did appeal very much, and I did a number of residential Seminars with him, in the UK and France, in which Yoga/Bodywork was a major part. There are others who are better qualified to comment on this aspect of his teaching than myself, so I will offer my own personal take on it. In my book ‘The Texture of Being’ I often refer to “going into the feeling” of something. There is a tendency, in a mind-dominated culture, to always think things through. This is fine when dealing with practical, mechanical things. But when dealing with personal issues and philosophical subjects, it is helpful if you can not only ‘think’ things through, but also ‘feel’ them through. This takes one into the realm of what is usually referred to as ‘intuition’ or ‘gut feeling’. But, in order to access this kind of intelligence, which is what it is, it is necessary to be able to go into the body-feeling, which is deeper than just ‘thinking’ about something. In Jean’s Yoga and other bodywork practices, conscious awareness of the ‘feeling’ was cultivated through gentle exercises. Being in the ‘feeling’ at each moment, in the body, was encouraged. This was done in a very casual, non-competitive way. Each participant in the bodywork was encouraged to work within whatever limitations their body dictated. Emphasis was always on being consciously aware of the movement and the space around the body, but also in the expansion of what we felt our physical limits were. He encouraged a stretching of the body and expansion of the limits of the body, in the creative imagination. This had the affect that one did not have the feeling of being confined within the body – there was a feeling of lightness and openness. Others could express this particular aspect more clearly, I am sure. But, it made me very aware that bodywork of some kind – be it tai chi, yoga, free-movement, or whatever, is a good counter-balance to what can become an intellectually dominant philosophy such as Advaita. If one is living in the world of ideas, and not grounding those ideas, not embodying them, then it can be like living in a kind of dream-world, where you may think that you have all the answers, even though you haven’t yet explored all the questions.
I have the feeling that the grounding or embodiment you speak about is all about facing and understanding ‘what is,’ is that right? I feel this is the stage where the shift from the verbal, conceptual level of understanding to the energetic level of non-verbal recognition, understanding and realization of reality takes place. As I see it, the body is also part of ‘what is’ and it is not just an illusion or a bag of bones. How do you see the role of the body in the non-duality you write about?
Without the body, where are you? Any answer that is given to this question is the product of a mind which is connected to a particular body … which we may call a ‘body-mind mechanism’ or some such similar term. This body-mind mechanism also contains ‘personality’ and ‘ego’. There is a constant feedback and updating going on between body and mind, from second to second. In facing ‘what is’, if there is fear at that moment, it will be mirrored in the body. If ‘what is’ is a poisonous snake, then the body will be prepared, via perception, memory and various chemical changes to respond instantly. In normal everyday life, we are not always facing poisonous snakes, but the memory is so full of conditioned influences that conditioned responses are continuously taking place without our conscious awareness. When I meet someone I have decided I don’t like, there is an inner response which relays itself into my body. I may smile and be polite to that person, but my body knows the truth, and in some way, health wise, I will almost certainly pay for such dislikes. Over the course of many years and millions of such reactions, my body will bear the scars of such unseen reactions. Maybe my joints will seize up, or I will develop an illness related to some other part of my body. There are some very good books which go into this subject more deeply than I could attempt here.
But, back to your question: how do I see the role of the body in the non-duality I write about? The body-mind mechanism is a part of the play . . . one of the actors. The phenomenal world is the world in which the body-mind mechanism has its apparent existence. Without that phenomenal world, there would be no question, or anything else. For the sage, everything appears out of nothing (including himself) and has no real substance, but he is happy to act out his part in the play of life, responding to whatever arises as appropriate. He knows that ‘what is’ is a temporary arising in perception, in the moment. Life flows through him, as if he were not there. Ultimately, all is One, but in the phenomenal world it appears otherwise. Identification and attachment within the phenomenal world will create suffering for the identified and attached, but of course this suffering is only apparent. In reality there is no permanent entity to suffer. Suffering arises and subsides, as do all other phenomena. In the sage, there is liberation from suffering because there is no identification or attachment. Ultimately, because he is not a fixed, permanent entity, this absence of suffering could also be viewed as something which arises and subsides within the body-mind mechanism. Ultimately, nothing ever happens, and there is neither duality nor non-duality, which are merely concepts. But in this life, this phenomenal life, the actor does appear to suffer, and a fine-tuning of the gap between body and mind will reduce the experience of suffering in the actor. In this sense, the traditional approaches, such as yoga, that work to refine the body-mind, are very appropriate. They make the life, the phenomenal life, more joyful . . . bringing us back to our natural state, before the mind began impeding the free-flow of energy. Emptying the mind of its ‘stuff’, its psychological hang-ups, likes and dislikes, resistances, attractions and aversions, is important work in the life of a body-mind mechanism – it will lead to freedom and joy, in this life, here and now. But, if it is entered into with an acquisitive spirit, as a way in which the ego is going to show how clever or powerful it is, then we are not talking about the same thing. The ego is a key part of the problem in the first place. An essential quality of freedom is humility . . . a complete letting go, or surrendering, of the egoistic impulse.
Many seekers believe that they have ‘got it’ when they first understand the basic principles of advaita, or non-duality. But understanding and accepting the concepts and living them, are two different things. For the living of them, there needs to be an emptying of the old conditioned thought patterns. Simply believing that ‘I Am That’, for instance, is not enough, if the memory keeps pushing up, in every moment of every day, ‘I Am Not That’. Saying “all is one”, then behaving as if all is not one by concentrating all one’s energies in self-centered activities is merely self-delusion. The memories and patterns are not just in the mind – they also appear in the body, in the muscles, the joints and so on. I would say that ‘Inner Work’, which is essential for a clear understanding, necessarily involves some kind of bodywork that allows for the letting go of dysfunctional thought and behavioural patterns, which get in the way of clear seeing and living in one’s true nature. Liberation is not just a flip in one’s thinking process, from the belief in the ego to the belief in no-ego. If you believe in no-ego yet still act from ego, then there is an immense conflict in your life, which needs to be addressed.
What is thought?
I would say that thought is simply a function of the mind, which allows the body-mind mechanism to survive in the phenomenal world of duality. It allows the body-mind to interact with the outside world in such a way that it builds up a memory bank of experience and knowledge, which should help it to function more successfully in the future. Of course this is not always the case, because if you feed rubbish in, then you will usually get rubbish out. So it is important to encourage the right thoughts and experiences, otherwise the memory bank will contain material that may contribute towards its own downfall. But thought always operates within the field of the known, because it must always refer to the past, to memory. But, it can become modified through its interaction with others, such that specific limiting patterns of thought may be completely undermined to the extent that ‘realization’ may occur.
Now, when we understand the limitations of thought, we can also utilize its incredible ability to explore its own environment, by exploring the subtleties of our ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds. The mind can easily get fixed into certain patterns of thinking and behaving, but it can also create strategies for disentangling itself from these fixed patterns. Whilst the mind may be burdened with negative thoughts, which may weigh heavy on the heart, it is also possible for the mind to express the most beautiful poetic descriptions of the world we know, and beyond. Thought can be our downfall and source of suffering, or it can take on all the lightness and beauty that there is. When we realize the incredible power of the mind, we will maybe treat it with more respect, and feed it well, so that our thoughts become an expression of the inner beauty that we essentially are.
What is the thinker, the observer, the controller? How do you see the thinker, or the ‘me’ comes to an end?
First there is consciousness, then the thinker, the controller, is created in the mind. We are not automatically born with the ability to think. This is taught to us, as we are gradually conditioned into living in the world as a separate body-mind. Always, underlying thought, there is ‘consciousness’, which is our fundamental aspect. But the thinker is the product of the past. The past is a synthesis of many strands of social evolution. What strands we become conditioned with will depend on what kind of family we are born into.
When you ask somebody “who are you?”, they will automatically reply with their name. If you ask them to define it even further, they may say that they are a man or a woman, etc. – but all the time they are describing the ‘clothing’ that consciousness has taken on in expressing itself through their particular body-mind. To think that this expression is a permanent entity in time is a mistake that nearly every body-mind makes. In this life, there is a great effort to accumulate more and more, to reinforce the notion that I am a somebody. But then, a great wave comes along, and suddenly there is nobody there.
What you are and what you appear to be are two different things. One is real and the other is an illusion, created within your own imagination. This trick has been taught to almost everyone, because it is tradition not to look at who or what you really are. You are not your name, your occupation, your body, your bank account – these are just tools for consciousness to express itself to itself. It is all a play, a great universal play of consciousness. Fundamentally, you are nothing but consciousness. But consciousness is not an object. You are conscious, you are receptive, but when you begin to think, you then begin also to think you are a separate entity. You then start to get involved and identified with the images that pass through your brain, and you believe that you are a controller, a doer. But who is there to control or do anything? It can be, and will be, wiped out suddenly. All it needs is one great wave, then where is the doer? Then, the doer is itself done. At any moment, we are solely reliant that our next breath comes – and one day it won’t come.
So, finally, to answer your question as to how I see that the thinker comes to an end. When the thinker comes to an end is of no interest. The thinking process is a natural part of life as a human being. When we see that this is how it is, we can be at ease in the understanding that all this play of the mind will come to an end. It doesn’t have to be ended as a deliberate act. Its end is already clear and will certainly happen when it is due to happen. Our true nature lies in consciousness, which is non-specific. When a life is born, it is naturally and automatically imbued with consciousness, because consciousness permeates all. When all this is known, there is naturally no more attraction for the mind to identify itself with what is going on in the play. It knows that it itself is a temporary blip on the all-encompassing background consciousness, so the mind naturally stands back from involvement. There is an awareness of the play, and the actor in the play, and it is never forgotten who or what it is that stands behind the actor.
You seem to suggest consciousness is a kind of screen on which thought moves. As I see it, thought itself is consciousness. Consciousness is dependent on the body and mind. Without memory and thought there is hardly any consistent notion of existence, which is what consciousness is after all. So consciousness is limited, relative and temporary.
When consciousness understands its own nature it is also emptied of the false sense of self or separation constructed and imagined by thought. Consciousness is transformed and empty. This emptiness is not an entity. It is without sense of self. This empty consciousness is like the dew drop in which the moon is reflected; the moon being absolute reality. This reality is beyond being or non-being. It is not an entity and is not a state which can be experienced. It is beyond consciousness and experience. What would you say to this view?
Consciousness is the substratum of all existence. It underlies everything in the physical world. At least, this is one use of the word. I am not attached to any particular concept regarding Consciousness. As far as I am concerned, consciousness is not an object. What we point to in our discussion can never be it, because ‘it’ is not an ‘it’ at all. It has no separate existence. Now, I know that one of Krishnamurti’s favourite phrases was “consciousness is its content”. This is a totally different concept, and use of the word. If you are saying that thought, mind is consciousness, then I can accept that, but we are not talking about the same thing. We are attributing different meanings to different words. Maybe you use different words to describe what I am trying to describe?
From my starting position, consciousness is not dependent on the body and mind – in fact, quite the opposite. But I am also happy to use your concept of consciousness. Both are valid. These are not opposing views. We are merely using different concepts in different ways. In the sense that I am using it, consciousness cannot be transformed, because it is beyond time-space and causation. It is not an object. If we say that consciousness is its content (i.e. memory and thought) then we maybe call what I call consciousness “God”. I am happy to do that. Or we can call one ‘Consciousness with form’ and the other ‘Consciousness without form’ – as you wish. There is black and there is white. Without black there is no white, and vice versa. Without the relative there would be no absolute, without me there would be no you, and so on. But is there something beyond this? Or do we simply need to accept that there is existence and there is non-existence? Today we converse … and tomorrow we are not here. Today we read Rumi, Hui Neng, Buddha, Jesus … where are they now? Are they not merely concepts in our minds? Tomorrow … in ten thousand years, maybe someone will read our dialogue, and it will be relevant then, as it is now, but neither Ben nor Roy will be around anymore. Where have we gone? Who in fact are we? Or is what we take ourselves to be merely a wave arising in the great ocean of consciousness?
In all schools of traditional Buddhism and Vedanta precepts for moral and ethical conduct are the cornerstone on which the more advanced teachings are founded. In popular Advaita these basic teachings are often frowned upon. What is your view on this?
The precepts are there for good reason. The mind, the ego, is very adept at deluding itself into thinking it has grasped the ultimate truth, when in fact it has only grasped the basics of the philosophy. I would not suggest that everyone practice traditional spirituality as it has been laid down through the ages. It may be appropriate for some, but is not necessary for everyone. However, I have become aware of a number of people who consider that once it is realized that the ultimate nature of reality is non-dualistic, that there is then no need to question one’s behaviour or attitudes at all – that, basically, any kind of behaviour is acceptable, as there is no one there in ultimate terms. So, such people become unwilling to question their anger, their fear, their sexual behaviour maybe, or their offensive use of language. As all is One and as this ‘person’ here really doesn’t exist in ultimate terms, anything goes, according to this view. Whilst there may be a certain amount of philosophical truth in this view, in terms of helpfulness for daily life, I would say it is a way of burying the head in the sand, whilst at the same time claiming to be able to see beyond the stars. If there truly is ‘realization’, in the traditional sense, there is also transformation on every level. It doesn’t just affect one’s ideas and concepts. If there really is selfless awareness, then where is the room for selfish behaviour? The mind and emotions are automatically transformed by ‘realization’. Otherwise, it is a new meaning that is being attributed to the word ‘realization’, to suit a less demanding group of people. Realization, in the traditional sense, changes the centricity of the ‘person’ entirely. Yes, his behaviour may then be unpredictable, but how can it ever be ego-centric again? This is the difference. There is freedom to do anything (the new approach), and there is also freedom from the need to do anything (the old approach).
What is the nature of reality? Can it be experienced?
It may sound like an evasive answer, but I would say that the nature of reality cannot be accurately described. It can be experienced, but not by ‘you’ and not by ‘me’. When there is mindfulness, but no sense of me or you, there is a meeting with reality. It can be hinted at in poetry or art, but not directly, not by way of trying to pin it down, describe it or somehow grasp the meaning of it. It has no meaning, as we know it, and it is not fixed in such a way that any philosophy can accurately represent it in words. Anything that we say that reality is, is merely a concept, a poor representation. When we truly have been touched by reality, we will completely let go of trying to pin it down.
September 1988. Location: the kitchen of his house on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.
We were busy going over the translation of The Nectar of the Lord’s Feet (Dutch title Self-Realization) by his Spiritual master Nisargadatta Maharaj and he wanted to do an ‘interview’ for a change, as a sort of practice. The interview has survived a computer crash, break-in and theft, because luckily I had typed it out and printed the tape previously. I have preserved this as a treasure for years. Until now.
Alexander met Nisargadatta in September of 1978. In the beginning of September of that year Jacques Lewenstein had been in India and come back with the book I Am That and tapes of Nisargadatta.
Alexander: That book came into the hands of Wolter Keers. He was very happy with it, because after the death of Krishna Menon (Wolter’s spiritual master) he had not heard anything so purely advaita. After Wolter had read the book he decided to translate and publish it ‘because this is so extremely good’. Wolter gave me the book immediately and I was very moved by it. Then there was an article in Panorama or The New Revue: God Has No Teeth. A poorly written story by the young man who did Showroom (TV). There was a life-sized photo of Nisargadatta’s head in it. That was actually my first acquaintance with Nisargadatta. By then Wolter had already told me: ‘I can not do anything more for you. You need someone. But I wouldn’t know who.’ But, when he had read I Am That he said: ‘If I can give you a piece of advice, go there immediately.’ And that I did.
What were you seeking?
I was seeking nothing more. I knew everything. But, if you had asked me what I had learned I would have said; I don’t actually know it. There is something essential that I don’t know. There was a sort of blind spot in me that no one knew what do with. Krishnamurti knew nothing that he could say about it. Bhagwan was for us at that time not someone that you would go to, at least for this sort of thing. Da Free John was also not it. Those were the known people at that time. I had a blind spot. And what typifies a blind spot is that you don’t know what it is. You only knew that if you were really honest with yourself, if you really went to the bottom of yourself, that you had not yet solved the riddle.
For the first time in Bombay?
A little staircase going up to an attic room. First came my head, and the first thing that I saw was Mrs. Satprem and Nisargadatta. There were maybe three or four people there. ‘Here I am’, I said. And he said: ‘So, finally you came.’ Yeah, that is what they all say, that I heard later, but for me it was the first time that I heard it. I did have the feeling when I went in that now it was really serious. Now there is no escape possible, Here something is really going to happen. Naturally I had already met many of these people: Krishnamurti, Jean Klein, Wolter, Swami Ranganathananda, Douglas Harding, and also some less well known Indians. I was naturally too young for Ramana Maharshi and Krishna Menon. They died in the fifties. I was 7 or 8 years old then. That is not the age to be busy with these sorts of things. It held also true for us at that time, ‘wait’ for a living master. And I had a very strong feeling that this was the man that I had been looking for. He asked if I were married, what I did, and why I had come to India.
What precisely did you want from him?
Self-realization. I wanted to know how I was put together. I said: ‘I have heard that your are the greatest ego killer who exists. And that is what I want.’ He said: ‘I am not a killer. I am a diamond cutter. You are also a diamond. But you are a raw diamond and you can only be cut by a pure diamond. And that is very precise work, because if that is not done properly then you fall apart into a hundred pieces, and then there is nothing left for you. Do you have any questions?’ I told him that Maurice Frydman was the decisive reason for my coming. Frydman was a friend of Krishnamurti and Frydman was planning to publish all of the earlier work of Krishnamurti at Chetana Publishers in Bombay, And that he had heard from Mr. Dikshit , the publisher, that there was someone in Bombay who he had to meet. (I Am That was of course not yet published at that time because Frydman had yet to meet Nisargadatta). Frydman went there with his usual skeptical ideas. He came in there, and within two weeks things became clear to him that had never become clear with Krishnamurti. And I thought then: if it all became clear to Frydman within two weeks, how will it go with me? I told all this to Nisargadatta and he said: ‘That says nothing about me, but everything about Frydman.’ And he also said: ‘People who don’t understand Krishnamurti don’t understand themselves.’ I thought that was beautiful, because all the gurus I knew always ran everyone down. It seemed as if he wanted to help me relax. He didn’t launch any provocations. I was able to relax, because as you can understand it was of course a rather tense situation there. He said; ‘Do you have any questions?’
I said; ‘No.’
‘When are you going to come?’
‘Every day if you allow me.’
‘That’s good. Come just two times every day, mornings and afternoons, for the lectures, and we’ll see how it goes.’
I said: ‘Yes, and I am not leaving until it has become clear.’
He said; ‘That’s good.’
Was that true?
Yes, without a doubt. Because what he did — within two minutes he made it clear, whatever you brought up, that the knowledge you presented was not yours. That it was from a book, or that you had borrowed or stolen it, or that it was fantasy, but that you were actually not capable of having a direct observation, a direct perception, seeing directly, immediately, without a mediator, without self consciousness. And that frightened me terribly, because everything you said was cut down in a brutal way.
What happened with you exactly?
The second day he asked if I had any questions. Then I began to ask a question about reincarnation in a more or less romanticized way. I told that I had always had a connection with India, that when I heard the word ‘India’ for the first time it was shock for me, and that the word ‘yoga’ was like being hit by a bomb when I first heard it on TV, and that the word ‘British India’ was like a dog hearing his boss whistle. And I asked, could it mean that I had lived in India in previous lives? And then he began to curse in Marathi, and to get unbelievably agitated, and that lasted for at least ten minutes. I thought, my god, what’s happening here? The translator was apparently used to it, because he just sat calmly by, and when Maharaj was finished he summarized it all together; ‘Maharaj is asking himself if you are really serious. Yesterday you came and you wanted self-realization, but now you begin with questions that belong in kindergarten’… In this way you were forced to be unbelievably alert. Everything counted heavily. It became clear to me within a few days that I knew absolutely nothing, that all that I knew, all the knowledge that I had gathered was book knowledge, second hand, learned, but that out of myself I knew nothing. I can assure you that this put what was needed into motion. And that’s how it went every day! Whatever I came up with, whether I asked an intelligent question or a dumb question, made absolutely no difference. And one day he asserted this, and the following day he asserted precisely the opposite and the following day he twisted it around one more time even though that was not actually possible. And so it went, until by observation I understood why that was, and that was a really wonderful realization. Why do I try all the time to cram everything into concepts, to try to understand everything in terms of thinking or in the feelings sphere? And, he gave me tips about how I could look at things in another way, thus really looking. And then it became clear to me that it just made no sense to regard yourself — whatever you call yourself, or don’t call yourself — in that way. That was an absolute undermining of the self-consciousness, like a termite eating a chair. At a certain moment it becomes sawdust. It still looks like a chair, but it isn’t a chair anymore.
Did that lead to self realization?
He kept going on like this, and then there came a moment that I just plain had enough of it. Really just so much … I would not say that I became angry, but a shift took place in me, a shift of the accent on all authorities outside of myself, including Nisargadatta, to an authority inside myself. He was talking, and at a given moment he said ‘nobody’. He said : ‘Naturally there is nobody here who talks.’ That was too much for me. And I said: ‘If you don’t talk then why don’t you shut up then? Why say anything then?’
And it seemed as if that is what had been waiting for. He said: ‘Do you want that I should not talk anymore? That’s good, then I won’t talk anymore and if people want to know something then they can just go to Alexander. From now on there are no more translations, translators don’t have to come anymore, there is no more English spoken. Only Marathi will be spoken, and if people have any problems then they can go to Alexander because he seems to know everything.’ And then began all the trouble with the others, the bootlickers and toadies who insisted that I had to offer my apologies! Not on my life. Yeah, you can’t offer excuses to a nobody, eh?!
And to me he said; ‘And you, you can’t come here anymore.’ And I said: ‘What do you mean I can’t come here anymore. Try and stop me. Have you gone completely crazy? ‘ And the translators were naturally completely upset. They said nothing like this had ever been seen before. And he was angry! Unbelievably angry!. And he threw the presents that I had brought for him at my feet and said: ‘I want nothing from you, Nothing from you I want.’ And that was the breakthrough, because something happened, there was no thinking because I was.. the shift in authority had happened. As I experienced it everything came to me from all sides: logic, understanding, on the one hand the intellect and on the other hand at the same time the heart, feelings and all phenomena, the entire manifest came directly to me from all sides to an absolute center where the whole thing exploded. Bang. After that everything became clear to me.
The next day I went there as usual. There was a lecture, but indeed no English was spoken. I can assure you that the tension could be cut with a knife, because I was the guilty party of course. He wanted to push that down my throat and the translators just went along quietly. There was not even any talking. And the next day, there was not even a lecture. He arrived in a car, and drove away when he saw me and went to a movie… Then I wrote him a letter. Twelve pages. In perfect English. I had someone bring the letter to him. Everything was running over. I wrote everything. And his answer was: let him come tomorrow at 10 o’clock. And he read my letter and said: ´You understood. This confrontation was needed to eliminate that self-consciousness. But you understood completely and I am very happy with your letter and nothing happened.’ Naturally , that cleared the air. He asked if I wanted to stay longer. ‘From this situation that took place on September 21, 1978, I want to be here in love .’ And he said; ‘that is good.’ From that day on I attended all the talks and also translated sometimes, for example when Spaniards, or Frenchmen or Germans came. I was a bit of a helper then.
So actually you apply the same method as he did: the cutting away of the self-consciousness to the bone and letting people see their identities. Was that his method?
Yes. Recognizing the false as false and thereafter letting the truth be born. But the most wonderful thing was, My basis dilemma, and if I say ‘my’ I mean everyone in a certain sense, is that if at a certain moment you ask yourself: what did I come here for, that seems to be something completely different from what you thought. Everyone has ideas about this question, and I had never suspected in the farthest reaches of my mind that the Realization of it would be something like this. That is the first point. The second is, it appears that a certain point you have the choice of maintaining your self-consciousness out of pride, arrogance, intellect. And the function of the Guru, the skill with which he can close the escapes from the real confrontation was in his case uncommonly great, at least in my case. And for me that was the decisive factor. Because if there had been a chance to ‘escape’, I would certainly have taken it. Like a thief who still tries to get away.
Did he ever say anything about it?
He said that unbelievable courage is needed not to flee. And that my being there had almost given him a heart attack, that he no longer had the strength to tackle cases like mine as he became older. So I have the feeling that I got there at just the right moment. Later he became sick. He said: ‘I have no strength anymore to try to convince people. If you like it, continue to come, maybe you can get something out of it, but I have no strength anymore to convince people like him (and then he pointed to me). I am so grateful to him, because it only showed how great my resistance was. There has to be a proportional force that is just a bit stronger than your strangest and strongest resistance. You need that. It showed how great my resistance was. And it showed how great his strength was, and his skill. For me he was the great Satguru. The fact that he was capable of defeating my most cunning resistance — and I can assure you after having gone into these things for 15 years — my resistance was extremely refined and cunning, was difficult for him even though he knew who he was dealing with. That’s why I had to go to such a difficult person of course. It says everything about me. Just as he said in the beginning that it said everything about Frydman. But I have never seen the skill he had in closing the escape routes of the lies and falsehoods so immensely great anywhere else.
Of course I have not been everywhere, but with Ramana Maharshi you just melted. That was another way. With Krishna Menon the intellect could just not keep it together under the gigantic dismantling, but by Nisargadatta, every escape was doomed to failure. People who came to get something, or people who thought they could bring something stood naked outside the door within five minutes. I saw a great many people there walking away in great terror. At a certain moment I was no longer afraid, because I felt that I had nothing more to lose. So I can’t really say that it was very courageous of me. I can only say that in a certain sense with him I went on the attack. And what was nice about it is that he also valued that. Because, he sent many people away, and these really went and mostly didn’t come back. The he would say: ‘They are cowards. I didn’t send them away, I sent away the part of them that was not acceptable here.’ And if they then returned, completely open, then he would say nothing about it. But during those happenings with me, people forgot that. There was also a doctor, a really fine man, who said; ‘don’t think that he is being brutal with you; you don’t have any idea how much love there is in him to do this with you.’ I said: ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that.’ Because I didn’t want any commentary from anyone. After all, this is what I had come for! Only the form in which it happened was totally different from what I had expected in my wildest dreams. But again, that says more about me than about Maharaj, and I still think that.
So, his method was thus to let you recognize the false as false, to see through the lies as lies, and to come to truth in this way?
Yes, and that went deeper than I could have ever suspected. The thinking was absolutely helpless. The intellect had no ghost of chance. The heart was also a trap. And that is exactly what happened there. That is everything. And I know that after that day, September 21, 1978, there has never been even a grain of doubt about this question, and the authority, the command, the authenticity, has never left, has never again shifted. There is no authority, neither in this world or in another world, that can thrust me out of the realization. That’s the way it is.
Did Maharaj say that you had to do something after this realization?
I asked: ‘It is all very beautiful, but what now? What do I do with my life? Then he said: ‘You just talk and people will take care of you.’ And that’s the way it has gone.
Did you go visit him often?
Various times. As often as I could I was there every year for two or three months. Until the last time. And when I knew that I would never see him again there was entirely no sadness or anything like that. It was just the way it was. It was fine that way,
Did he do the same with others as he had with you?
Not as intensely and not so persistently.
You get what you give?
Yes, that is so. In a certain sense he did that with everyone, but if someone was very sensitive he approached it in a different way. Naturally it makes difference if an old nun is sitting in front of you, or a rebel like myself, who also looks as if he can take quite a bit. The last time he said; ‘He will be powerful in Europe. He has the knowledge. He will be the source of what I am teaching.’ And then he directed those headlight eyes of his towards me. That is still so wonderful… It is ten years ago now, and it seems like a week. I have learned to value his words in the passage of time. The things I questioned in the past I see becoming manifest now. At first I thought; the way he has put this into words is typical Indian conditioning after all, but the wonder is that all the advice that he gave taught me to hang on to them. I didn’t follow them a few times and that always lead to catastrophes.
For example he said to me: ‘Don’t challenge the Great Ones. Let them enjoy.’ And I have to admit that I had trouble with that. But knowing my rebellious character — and naturally he saw that immediately — he still had to give me that. And every time that I see that, that aspect of my character wants to express itself, I hear his voice: ‘Don’t challenge the Great Ones.’ He anticipated that. I know that for sure. And in that way he also said a number of things that suddenly made sense. Then I hear him. And Wolter always said: ‘After the realization, the only words that remain with you are the words of your Guru. All your knowledge disappears, but the words of the Guru remain.’ And I can now confirm that that is true, that it is like that.
Was Wolter also a disciple of Nisargadatta?
No, but he was there often.
I have understood that you find the Living Teaching very important. Is that especially true for Advaita?
The objection to books about Advaita, including the translations of Nisargadatta’s words is that too much knowledge is given in them. That is an objection. People can use this knowledge, and especially the knowledge at the highest level to defend and maintain their self-consciousness. That makes my work more difficult. Knowledge, spiritual knowledge, can, when there is no living master be used again to maintain the ‘I’, the self-consciousness. The mind is tricky, cunning. And I speak out of my own experience! Because Advaita Vedanta, without a good living spiritual master, I repeat, a good one, can become a perfect self contained defense mechanism. It can be a plastic sack that leaks on all sides, but you can’t find the leak. You know that it doesn’t tally, but it looks as if it does tally. That is the danger in Vedanta. Provided there is a good living master available, it can do no harm. But stay away from it if there is no master available! Provided it is well guided Advaita can be brilliant.
Do you mean that people could act from their so called ‘knowing’ as if they are more than the content of their consciousness? That they therefore assume that the content is worthless?
Yes. That is why up to now, I have never wanted to write a book. But, as long as I am alive there are Living Teachings. When I die they can do whatever they want to with it, but as long as I am alive I am there.
To take corrective action?
Do people have a built in defense mechanism?
At the level of the psyche there is a defense mechanism that prevents you from taking in more than you can cope with, but at a higher level sooner or later you have an irrevocable need for a spiritual master who can tell you certain things, who has to explain things because other wise you get stuck. Whoever doesn’t want a living master gets stuck.
Books could lead to people becoming interested and going on a search.
To a good spiritual master of flesh and blood. Living!
Did Nisargadatta foresee that you would manifest as a guru?
I think guru is a rotten word, but he did say: ‘Many people will seek your blessings.’
So you couldn’t do anything else. It happened by itself.
He said; ‘The seed is sown, the seasons do the rest.’
Isn’t that true for everyone?
Yes, but some seeds fall on good soil and something grows, but other seeds don’t grow. Out of million sperms only one reaches the egg.
At Nisargadatta’s bhajans were also sung and certain rituals done, especially for the Indians. Did you also participate in that?
I participated two times. The bhajans I thought, were really special…
What is their goal?
Singing bhajans has a purifying effect on the body, thinking, and feeling, so that the Knowledge can become manifest and finds its place there. I don’t have any need of it, but I see that the singing offers social and emotional solace and thus I am not against it. In addition prasad was distributed and arati done.
What is arati?
A form of ritual in which fire is swung around and camphor is burned. Camphor is the symbol of the ego. That burns and nothing remains of it. Just as in self-realization nothing of the self-consciousness remains. It is a beautiful ritual. It makes you attentive to all kinds of things. The fire is swung at your eye level so what you see may be beautiful, at your ears so that what you hear may be pure, and at your mouth so that what you eat may be pure. It is Hindu symbolism that has become so common in India that it has mostly become flattened out and routine. It has something, as a symbol , but Westerners shouldn’t try it unless they understand the symbolism completely. I find the singing of OM good, that works, that is a law. It works to purify the body, thinking and feeling, so that the Knowing that it is can be manifest and find a place in your life.
Did Nisargadatta follow a certain tradition?
But of course. The Navdath Sampradaya. The tradition of the Nine Gurus. The first was Jnaneshwar (Jnanadeva) from the 13th century, who became realized when he was twenty and also died at that age. Nisargadatta was the ninth.
Are you the tenth?
No. I always call Maharaj ‘the last of the Mohicans’.
Still you always talk about the tradition.
I work following a traditional background, because there lies the experience of a thousand years of instruction. Instruction that works! I have learned to value the Tradition. I am totally non traditional, but in my heart I am a traditionalist. When I talk about ‘the tradition’ I mean the tradition of Advaita so as that became manifest in the Navdath Sampradaya.
What is the importance of tradition?
The importance of a tradition is just as with violin playing, that you have had predecessors who have done it in a certain way which you know works. But many traditions have become dead end traditions because they don’t work anymore. That is why you always see renovators like a Buddha, a Krishna, Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi in a certain sense, and Bhagwan (Osho) and Nisargadatta. The way Nisargadatta said it is after all quite different from the way his Guru said it, and the way it is here made manifest, is after all also very different then at Nisargadatta’s. It is about the ‘essence’. Just as consciousness is transmitted by means of sex, enlightenment is transmitted by the Guru.
Did Nisargadatta teach you the tradition?
You can’t learn a tradition; you can only become self-realized. And that is what happened. I know what I know. Done.
And then a tradition is born?
Yes, precisely, you say it very well.
We are now busy with book ‘Self-realization. What do you think about that book?
It is no easy book. It is no easy bedside companion.
In one way or another, translating the book has done much for me.
You have been busy with these things for a long time, thus the reading of a relatively direct form of Nisargadatta’s words must have an effect, But even you found it to be a difficult book. The theme of the book — who were you before the conception, before body/thinking/feeling appeared and before the forming of words in the mind — is not simple to say, but by repeated readings, and talking with each other and all kind of other things, a few things have become clear.
It has to be digested?
Yes, especially digesting it is important. You can eat a lot, but it has to be digested.
Did you just see him sometimes in the daytime, like here in the kitchen?
He lived in that house and everyone went to their hotel or family, or to friends, or had lodgings with the translators. Someone always stayed to care for him a bit, but everyone simply went their own way. There was nothing like an ashram in the usual sense, a care institution, a salvation army for seekers. Absolutely not.
How was he between the acts?
Changeable, from extremely friendly to grumbling.
Did you find him to be a nice man?
Never thought about it for a second.
Would you like to be his friend?
No, Odd question.
I don’t agree, you could at least say ‘he is my Guru, but as a human, as a person’… if you at least could still see him as a person.
Just a whopper of a person, but yeah, there are no meaningful words that can be said about it.
I don’t believe that.
Did you ever eat with him?
Did you ever listen to music with him?
Did you ever just chat with him about little things?
How was that?
Normal, just like with you.
Did you find that scary?
Never? Also not in the beginning?
Did he have a normal householder’s life?
Was he married?
Yes, he had children.
What kind of a father was he?
What kind of husband was he?
I don’t know because his wife was dead.
Did he have girl friends?
Did he sometimes speak about sex?
What did he do in his spare time?
He had no spare time. All his time was spent on the ‘talks’. Or he slept or took walks, or he looked outside, and he smoked a little beedee.
How did he experience being sick?
He didn’t think about it. It’s just something of the body, a little something.
What was his attitude towards women ‘seekers’?
The rule for Indian women was keep your mouth shut and listen. Ask no questions. Unless they were very brave, then he allowed it from time to time and answered them, just as with them men. Western women he just answered, just like with the men. But with Indian women he was very traditional: ‘just keep quiet.’
What did he think about Bhagwan (Osho)?
It varied. It depended who was asking the question.
Every perception, thought or feeling is known by you. You are the knower of the world through the sense organs; of the sense organs through the generic mind; and of the mind – with its activity or passivity – by your self alone.
In all these different activities, you stand out as the one knower. Actions, perceptions, thoughts and feelings all come and go. But knowingness does not part with you, even for a moment. You are therefore always the knower. How then can you ever be the doer or the enjoyer?
After understanding the ‘I’-principle as pure Consciousness and happiness, always use the word ‘I’ or ‘knower’ to denote the goal of your retreat. The ‘I’ always brings subjectivity with it. It is this ultimate, subjective principle ‘I’ – divested of even that subjectivity – that is the goal.
Consciousness and happiness may possibly have a taint of objectivity in their conception, since they always express themselves in the realm of the mind. When one is deeply convinced that one’s self is consciousness and happiness, one finds it as the nameless. Whereupon, even this namelessness seems a limitation. Giving up that as well, one remains as the ‘I’-principle, the ‘Absolute’.
When you try to visualize the Absolute in you, nothing can possibly disturb you, because every thought or perception points to yourself and only helps you to stand established as the Absolute.
To become a Jynyanin [Sage] means to become aware of what you are already. In this connection, it has to be proved that ‘knowing’ is not a function. In all your life, you feel you have not changed; and of all your manifold activities, from your birth onwards, the only activity that has never changed is ‘knowing’. So both these must necessarily be one and the same; and therefore knowingness is your real nature.
Thus, knowing is never an activity in the worldly sense, since this knowing has neither a beginning nor an end. And because it is never separated from you, it is your svarupa (real nature) – just as ‘shining’ is the svarupa of the sun and not its function. Understanding it in this way, and realizing it as one’s svarupa, brings about liberation from all bondage.
When you reach consciousness or happiness, you lose all sense of objectivity or duality and stand identified with the ultimate, subjective ‘I’-principle, or the Absolute. Then the subjectivity also vanishes. When the word ‘pure’ is added on to consciousness, happiness or ‘I’, even the least taint of relativity is removed. There, all opposites are reconciled, all paradoxes stand self-explained; and everything, or nothing, can be said about it.
-Shri Atmananda (Krishna Menon)
From Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda, taken by Nitya Tripta