Since ceasing to speak and teach publicly, over these past 20 years, we have continued to remain pretty much attached to the grounds of our tiny home in Maine. In the beginning of these past 20 years, we continued to read and carry on an incredibly vicarious and full dialogue together, each of us being the other’s guide and confidant, and each doing our best to keep the other honest and straight. We were in many ways a true example of dialectics, or the Sufi conversational process of dialogue whereby each approaches the other as a beloved friend and teacher, and the dialogue itself becomes the third entity teacher. In this respect, we were to find that marriage can be one of the finest of all spiritual disciplines, if approached in the right manner. Yet it too requires submission, devotion, and commitment and respect. In many ways, it mimics the devotee/master relationship. The key is to recognize that both are devotee and master, at the same time. That can be a fiery process, to say the least, particularly when each partner is more or less on the same path at the same level of understanding. The ego tends to get in the way very often, and the heat of discussion and eventual argument can sometimes obscure the value of the dialectics. Nonetheless, marriage can be a great opportunity for growth and understanding if the priority is kept in view.
So, as all our outer teachers had somehow either died, or fallen off their pedestals, we found eventually, and fortuitously, in our hands two books which were to tie everything up into a nice neat bow, and open the doors to ever expanding horizons. How, or when we came across these books I cannot remember, and it is without question certain that these books stood on our shelves for many years before we fully grasped them. These books were transcripts of talks by Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta throughout their years as teachers in talks with their disciples as well as curiosity seekers who crossed their paths and visited them in India. Significantly, neither of them required any kind of submission by their disciple. Indeed, they would probably not have called their listeners disciples. Just so, they frequently sent away their best students, because there was nothing more to say, nor for them to learn.
These two teachers became constant resources for us both, as jumping off points for discussion and questions, as well as points for understanding and contemplation. At the same time, the Bible itself became a great transparent resource of exactly the same positions these two teachers expounded, as did indeed, almost every other book we read previously or thereafter. There was no difference, only different language or terminology, but each and every book said the same thing, but only and solely under different terminology or wording. This realization is inevitable if one progresses with an open mind through all the great teachings to realize suddenly that the conceptual mind differentiates and categorizes, but the non-conceptual mind does not. It is only when one gets stuck or comfortable with the dogma of a particular discipline that the trouble starts, and the egocentricity rears its ugly head, in exclusivity or power mongering. As the great Sufi position states “If you don’t stop there……….” It is a mantra that we lived by and still live by. It may be all one needs?
Only in the last 5 years or so did we stumble across U.G. Krishnamurti, who initially distressed us to suggest that there was nothing one could do to escape what position one was at the time, or in the past, or in the future. Initially, he seemed to contradict Ramana and Nisargadatta. But he did not. And despite his vehement objection to seeking -- and his perfectly obvious and rational reason for so doing -- he himself spent a life time seeking, only to achieve real freedom. (Well, he would not say he “achieved” anything!). So I am not of the opinion that seeking will inevitably obstruct one’s freedom, though DURING the process of seeking, the obstruction is real and will obstruct, simply by virtue of the distraction that seeking creates as well as the continuity of conceptual consciousness that it maintains. Nonetheless, I am of the belief that one can’t recognize freedom unless one BECOMES it, and the process of becoming is at the very least assisted by disciplines and understandings, even if when freedom occurs, both fall away into nothingness. At the very least, life becomes more tolerable and happy, more benign, while waiting for the final blow for freedom to emerge.
That said, it is apparent and obvious to me that suffering in life is inevitable, that death and dying is inevitable, that the body is subject to the laws that govern the body, and the freedom that one seeks from that inevitability is what continues to create the suffering. It is the seeking, the refusal to admit and surrender to a life that has both good and bad, happiness and sadness, and all the opposites that create a life in a dualistic universe, that imprisons us and maintains the process of suffering and misery that defines the human condition. In other words, it is not the facts themselves that cause suffering, but our interpretation of the facts and our refusal to confront the facts head on. It is our conceptual framework through which we constantly filter perceptions that obstructs our true vision and prevents us from being happy with what IS. And it is the seeking to escape that confrontation that causes suffering. UG exemplified to me the process of resignation to the inevitable by his actual life and his submission to it, in full, which therefore simultaneously released him from it. It is that resignation, that utter acceptance that life is suffering, that relieves the suffering, almost paradoxically. It is true and complete surrender to life, and the realization that the individual can do nothing to alter it. In this sense, it is similar to Zen, as well as all the other disciplines that begin with the refusal to refuse the obvious. We cannot escape our destiny, so long as we consider ourselves to have a destiny, and so long as we believe there is a way to alter or control that destiny.
So, it gradually appeared to us that our own process was essentially that once we had submitted and surrendered -- to the embodiment of what we considered to be an external God in an external reality we perceived out there – and that submission was necessary to further grind the arrogance of the ego down to dust -- we were to find suddenly that there was nobody in there with which to surrender, as well as nobody to whom one could surrender. It was ALL the stuff of consciousness. It was ALL God, all infinite, all encompassing, all embracing, all consuming, all holy. Nothing was left out, nothing was isolated, nothing was separate, all was entirely whole, one moment. Moreover, we discovered that the only reason we all forget this obvious fact is that we are told to forget. We are taught to narrow our vision, contain our magnitude. We all take the fall. We all believe we are what we think! In addition, so long as we labor under that delusion, and unhappily, grasp with great intensity and affection, out of fear, that delusion maintained by the mind that creates the delusion, we remain confined to the delusion that we ARE somebody. What a trade off! And it is self-imposed, even after we hear the good news. Ask me why we don’t jump at the way out? It is because we are afraid. It is because we believe we are only what we think we are. It is because we are conditioned to be afraid.
Consciousness, which is us and is expressed through matter, is what changes, transforms, is fluid and infinite, appears as it so wills externally, through time and space, with or without us as individuals, with or without all the conceptual knowledge that we pass on from generation to generation. When we realize that this is what we ARE, all of it, outer, inner, material and non-material, we are free. This is achieved through submission and surrender of all the cultural baggage that we carry with us through the millennia, all those concepts that inform us of what we aren’t, in order to control an apparently hostile world. When we submit that complex of concepts, (who we think we are), surrender it or give it up, to whatever, it truly does not matter, we escape that baggage and limitation. We discover what we always were, God being us without encumbrances, admonitions, fears, and vulnerabilities. We become the event, entirely, and without separation, moment by moment.
We had come full circle and back into the obvious. While on the surface, it appears to be a gradual progressive understanding, the understanding itself is a moment in time when it becomes apparent. It is an obvious conclusion to the process of spiritual seeking. It is both practical and to my mind, incredibly logical and rational.
Unfortunately, I cannot say it better than UG Krishnamurti does. I recommend any of his transcripts to anyone who is not afraid to leap into the unknown, and take the risk that she may no longer be anyone or anything.
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Anna, all that you say speaks to me. I remember your telling me once that we don't experience the highs or lows of life as we surrender to what IS, to all of what IS. I don't know what That IS anymore and I don't care. What strikes me is that I still have the feelings that engender sorrow, joy, pain, anger, etc., but whatever the feeling from moment to moment, it's okay. When I'm attached to a particular feeling, it hurts even if it's a joyous feeling; but when I'm not attached, I experience what I can't describe in words. In Sanskrit it's called "Shanti, Shanti." The best English translantion I've come across is "a peace that surpasses understanding." Thank you for your blog. Blessings, Bhakti