Lightmind Extract 015
reading the interesting dialog on adyashanti below. here are some of my observations. these are not about adya in particular, but come from having been in and around the satsang based groups since 1996: spending 8 months or so in a gangaji group (watching videos of satsangs and then discussing/meditating), going regularly to see catherine ingram (who was the premier satsangi in in santa monica for a few years) for a couple years, spending time with yudishtara (lesser known low-key papaji dude), being an avid reader of ramana and poonjaji, having a 65 yr old personal mentor for a couple years who was very into all of the above, and being ongoingly and presently in a loose community where various people are discovering and becoming enamoured of neo-advaita every few years, many of whom are presently big on adya.
1) the problem of practice
90% of the neo advaitins i have sat in satsang with have an extensive background in one or many practices – they have practiced meditation for years, sometimes (if you are lucky!) – decades. some make reference to other practices; therapy, tantra, yoga, for example. the ones i take seriously have been around for a while and are products of the 60’s and 70’s spiritual exploration, meaning they have pushed a lot of limits, broken social taboos, explored altered states of consciousness and spent time in other cultures……..
in other words, they have been exploring/developing/healing in various psychospiritual ways for some time. at some point they have arrived at a non-dual experience that has revealed to them that they were practicing within a framework that can now be surrendered, THEY have outgrown it – from that state (after a long preparation) they see the humor of the tail-chasing that is often part of the “spiritual search”, and they stop – they realize that the tail has always been exactly where it is and they bathe in the realization of the always already state of non-dual awareness. beautiful!
then they often proceed to tell their students that there is not now, nor has there ever been any need for ANYONE ELSE to practice. the absolute truth is freely available right here and now to all! whats more, YOUR failure as a student to realize the non-dual perfection and absolute truth that i am freely offering to you is nothing more than a trick of the mind so caught up in illusion. ouch!
this is kinda like training for 20 years to be an olympic athlete, going into “the zone”, running your best time ever , then telling a toddler that there is no need to learn how to walk or run – the zone is always available, it’s effortless and free and you can run as fast as i did last week if you just drop your struggle, stop trying so hard to develop your little baby hip flexors, hamstrings and quads, dude, just let go and let the wind carry you!
be the zone, you are IT already………..not getting it? ok come back next week and we’ll talk some more – in the meantime really though, stop trying to learn how to walk ok, and let go of that whole “i am just a little baby” routine…..
can you spell “inflation.”
now it’s worth mentioning that the other 10% of neo advaitin “teachers” i’ve been around are complete arrogant newbies who are claiming non-dual awareness after a year or two of satsang – they are convinced that they are following the teaching exactly, and have therefore purposely done no additional practice or psychological inquiry whatsoever, as this would perpetuate the very illusion they are “radically transcending” – now these guys are great fun to watch trying to filter every question their students ask through the lense of their neat little “advaita” reality……..whooooeeee!
it’s also worth mentioning that the transpersonalists, among them wilber, kornfield, welwood, grof, acknowledge that without practice and attention to the entire mandala of human experience, non-dual realization (to quote wilber) “leaves the rest of you pretty much as it finds it”. he goes on: ” – if you were an word before non-dual realization, you’ll still be an word afterwards!”
in other words as ABSOLUTE as the non-dual folks like to paint the “realization” is, it still doesn’t touch any of the developmental lines that actually determine how effectively, with how much grace, beauty and honesty you are able to express that realization where it matters – in your life and in the world. for that you might need some practices that help you to heal and develop in very important ways that the neo advaitins often ignore or outright scorn…
2) the built-in, but unacknowledged structure
of course, like anything else, the satsang world has it’s built-in structure; heirarchy, ritual, belief system – and of course, it’s shadow, or iatrogenic side-effect.
in satsang there is a very special teacher (part of how special they are may be their insistence on being ordinary, but they are after all sitting at the front of the room each time the group gathers..) this is the enlightened one – the one who knows the absolute truth. the crowd that is gathered are seekers after the absolute truth.
within the crowd are many who have been around for a while and are pretty clear on what the absolute truth is, really – in fact they may start giving satsangs of their own soon! and then there are the wounded birds who bring their suffering to satsang hoping for an answer. they talk about their pain – they are told it is just a story, the almost enlightened nod wisely as the teacher explains this. they are told to give up whatever therapy, meditation or other practice they are using and see through the game of seeking.
they dont get it. something doesn’t feel right, of course this is the problem, you see, they are holding on…….
as in any group, there is a subtle hierarchy, an in group, an out-group. people who are “closer” to the alpha, people who are less close to the alpha. the alpha is idealized and the shadow/iatrogenic effects of the process are not part of the dialog because everyone is getting too much out of the unacknowledged set-up, especially the teacher!
kornfield, in the one of the last chapters of a path with heart goes into some detail about the necessity of examining the shadow of any group and it’s practices – he includes psychotherapy and vipassana, by the way, as well as sufi dancing and adveita vedanta – offering examples of how all practices/belief systems will perpetuate variations on our neuroses and ways of splitting -off from ourselves…..
3) the vague mystifying and subsequent literalizing and trivializing of “awakening”
the belief system is organized around the idea of awakening or enlightenment. this is the holy grail that everyone is not-seeking ( and most are not-seeking it because they actually have pain and dis-satisfaction they would like to be free of).
enlightenment is an open secret. available to all but mysterious. mysterious but absolutely obvious. when you stop thinking it is here now, when you let go of any of your ideas about it, it is your always already true nature – nothing can rally be said about it – just BE IT. dont get caught up in anything else, just let go. all seeking, healing, practicing, inquiring, is just a way of avoiding and further distancing yourself in an illusory way from what you already are……..
so we have a group of people all trying to not try. seeking to be by not seeking to be. this creates the opportunity for some interesting insights, it also sets up a fascinating excercise in group psychology! double binds abound, dissociations and group-think rule the day. none of this is examined, as there is no psychological inquiry, or critique of the “absolute truth”.
this undefinable experience that is not an experience is just about to dawn if you could just get out of the way, and if you really get it – it never goes away! after all where would it go – nudge nudge, tee hee……
this plays perfectly into the superficial spiritual culture of cool we live in and creates a vague mysterious notion of enlightenment that is actually pretty dualistic, or at the very least leads to a lot of dualistic mind-word. it concretizes “awakening” as an event that has happened for the teacher and not the students, but then denies that there is any way to get there (though the teacher has explored many, for many years!) and subsequently, in an ironic way, (disingenuously) trivializes it as something really not so special. what a postmodern, contradictory, dualistic, boomeritis, mess!
in my opinion non-dual teaching is like the graduate school course that shouldn’t be offered until students have gotten a really good college level grounding in theory and practice. to teach it as an alternative to the rest of the curriculum is actually profoundly dualistic and trivializing.
to use the chakras as a developmental example, the sixth and seventh chakras do not render the first five meaningless and illusory, and the imbalances at the lower levels will show up in very distinct ways as we move into the higher levels.
the higher levels are themselves meaningless and often pathological if not grounded and expressed by the lower levels, and even on developing into the higher energies, maintaining a relationship with the rest of the spectrum is essential.
in other words, psychotherapy, meditation, non-dual philosophy and awakening, relationship, physical yoga, energetic/tantric practices all can and should inform and support each other, not compete for absolute authority. this would be truly non-dual and integral. also a good teacher should be well versed in the practices and therapies that address each level of the process: “now i suggest some gestalt work, now some holotropic breathwork, now vipassana, now let’s sit in satsang together”.
there is an organic arising of non-dual awareness that reveals itself as layers of healing and development occur – it is the ground of being, the emptiness, but it would be dualistic to give it absolute importance over the form and the content of experience.
i have yet to see a neo-advaita group that is adequately addressing and working with these problems, or a devoted satsang who is not prey to them.
now of course there are seasoned practitioners who are able to enter the satsang realm, take what works for them and then go on about their business – great! i am more concerned here with what i feel are the majority of fairly inexperienced folks getting involved in the scene
Filed under: Adyashanti, John Welwood, Ken Wilber, Lightmind Extracts, Meditation, Papaji, Psychophysical Energies (Kundalini...Shakti...etc...), Psychospiritual Growth, Psychotherapy, Stanislav Grof | Leave a Comment