Excerpts from the book FROM THE I TO THE ABSOLUTE (A Seven-Step Journey to Reality)
A NOTE TO THE READERS
Realization only came when one particular path was followed in one particular order. A vision came during a meditative session when the theta state of consciousness was reached. It laid out an exact, direct path from the FALSE I to Realization; however, the vision made no sense to me at the time. Then, I began reading the transcripts of Advaita talks and they made clear the message of my vision. Talks on varied topics in varied orders eventually provided the understanding of each of the stages seen in the vision. The only thing remaining for an AHA moment to happen was to take his assortment of sharings and use them to understand the exact order to follow along the path. This book will offer to you the seven-step path to take and the order in which it has to be traveled.
After realization, a shift occurred in the way communication happened. In fact, instances of communication became fewer and farther between, and when the silence came, many noticed a shift. Some inquired as to the source and some came to hear more and some brought friends with them. A variety of questions were raised and the understanding was offered. Finally, it became clear that the Teaching should be presented in a more organized fashion, so a schedule of sessions was set up in which the seven steps would be offered in order. When one participant asked if her friend could tape the first session since she would have to miss that one, it was done. After that, all the exchanges were taped because a sense came that the 2001-2002 session might be the last. (A few of the exchanges that are included took place via e-mails or telephone conferences as well.)
Shortly after the last session, a retreat began that continues to this day. Days now pass mostly in the silence on the lake. Occasionally the Teachings are shared when contacted by e-mail or telephone, and on a website as well, but mainly the silence prevails. After realization, there was no path, no journey, no concepts…only the freedom of the Void and AS IF living afterwards. May you travel the path to freedom as well.
Finally, please note that a Glossary of Terms appears in the back of this book. The explanations and definitions are not those that will be found in Advaita lists that include the Far Eastern terms used by many gurus and teachers; instead, the terms are explained in ways that are relevant to this work in particular which tries to use everyday language when possible to provide as simple an explanation as possible while discussing what can be complicated subject matter.
Defining Advaita Vedanta
In its simplest form, Advaita is merely a system or an approach that can lead to Realization. Realization is what occurs when one becomes aware of all that he is not and eventually Realizes What He Really Is. The goal of the process is to allow people to eliminate all illusions and delusional thinking that result in dependence, in co-dependencies, in beliefs in superstitions, and in the mental and emotional dependence that results when we accept all the lies programmed into us through conditioning by the culture.
Mental and emotional restrictions occur when we adopt the ideas and beliefs of others without ever having truly investigated those attitudes. The Advaita approach allows us to become truly free. Being TRULY FREE refers to being free of the ideas, free of the emotional intoxication, and free of the beliefs that have been used to control us, to create fears in us, and to drive us to be influenced by illusions and lies. In its broadest use, VEDANTA is simply that message that is beyond any written texts that are said supposedly to be HOLY or that claim to supposedly contain TRUTH. My own experience has shown that the truth is already within each individual and can be Realized when one experiences the Advaitic approach with a guide who has undergone that process, seen the false, and then comes to understand That-That Which Is Real.
The Seven Degrees of Separation from Reality
Some Westerners will likely think that certain of the entries on this site have a TOO PHILOSOPHICAL bent. No apology for that shall be offered since one must either find a working philosophy or be doomed to adopt their ideology instead, and my experience shows that nothing is more destructive than buying into their ideology. For the most part, however, the version of the Advaita Vedanta (Non-Duality) message that I offer has been characterized by one protege as being APPLIED ADVAITA.
I will present the concepts of Non-Duality, yes, but eventually they are to be applied in everyday situations and used to bring peace and acceptance around the issues of the day. Ultimately, the concepts can be tossed, your everyday situations will be discarded, you will have no mind capable of being disturbed, and you will have no issues-du-jour. My teacher Sri Nisardagatta Maharaj was as direct and straight-forward as he could be while working in an Indian culture that tended to focus on its glossary of phrases and terms and words associated with Eastern philosophy. (That study, too, was a part of my JOURNEY).
Yet we must remember that the ultimate goal is for you to come to know You. You are invited to study the dilemma expressed in that I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM complaint (which contains an ironic duality in itself, yes?) and come to Know the answer to the age-old question implied in that statement. Ultimately, your culture has created a seven-fold barrier that is separating you from Knowing THAT Which You Are. We will discuss all seven eventually. The first of the Seven Degrees of Separation from the Knowledge of THAT Which You Are appears in the form of a manifested body. Offered as a meditation for today, therefore, I invite you to consider how the belief that you are a BODY might prevent your seeing the greater truth of Who or What You Truly Are. Are You your body?
PLEASE NOTE: The terms WET CHARCOAL, DRY CHARCOAL, AND GUNPOWDER will be mentioned. You will read pointers that are offered at times in the discussions that will seemingly contradict what you might read in other books or on the Advaita website referenced earlier on the copyright page. Beginners (the wet group) will be given one piece of advice, those farther along the path (the dry group) will be given other pointers, and those who need only a few additional points for the truth to explode into consciousness (the gunpowder group) will be offered something different.
THE FIRST DEGREE OF SEPARATION FROM REALITY:
THE FIRST DEGREE OF SEPARATION FROM REALITY: Body Identification, Part One
THE ARMS-LEGS-ORGANS Consideration can help people become free of the limiting, false belief that they are the body. Of the various self-concepts that block most humans from Realizing Who We Truly Are, body identification is the most basic and least sophisticated identity. Belief that one is the body preempts engagement in Self-Inquiry and-unless transcended-will prevent one from ever coming to know THAT Which We Absolutely Are. I offer the consideration now to you: If you were to lose your right arm, would You still be You?
You would still be You, right, even without that arm? If you were to lose your left arm, would You still be You? You would still be You, even without that arm…correct? If you were to lose your left leg, would You still be You? You would still be You, right, even without that leg? If you lose your other leg, You would still be You, would you not? You would still be You, right, even without that leg? Would You still be You if you have a heart transplant? You would still be You, yes? If you have a lung transplant, are You still You? You would still be You, right, even without your original lung or your original heart?
And if you looked into your own eyes in a mirror, You still know that You are You, even though your physical body is only a shadow of what it once was, right? Then…Who Are You? Who or What You Truly Are must be something beyond the physical body.
If more than half of what most consider to be YOU were to be lost, Who Is That You that remains? Moreover, Who is that You that is sensing that You would still be You, and would still be complete, even after the loss of four body appendages and the replacement of two original organs? Please enter the silence of contemplation.
THE FIRST DEGREE OF SEPARATION FROM REALITY: Body Identification, Part Two
With those first beginning a journey of Self-Inquiry, my teacher always addressed the illusion of body identification, so I too begin with that beginning. What is the problem with thinking you are your body? That misconception leads to chaotic behavior, insane conduct, and problems in relationship…especially with yourself. Regarding problems with others, occasional chances for a respite occur, but the problems with yourself are 24/7; worse, they not only create occasional misery and grief but often result in self-destructive behaviors as well.
Body identification can be chaotic and even fatal. Here is how. I once had a dog that, when it saw its reflection in a mirror, would go ballistic. He fought with that false self, biting at the mirror and trying to destroy himself/his own reflection. (In humans identified with their bodies, the deep-seated need to destroy the ego and false roles and to be true to Self is a subconscious, driving force that leads to self-destructive behavior or even suicidal assaults against the physical body. If I am my body and I am having overwhelming problems, then the way to be rid of those is to be rid of the body, so the unconscious, fallacious reasoning goes.
In fact, one need not be free of the body to be content, merely free of body identification and other false identifications as well. The goal of Advaita Vedanta is to use preemptive strikes to eliminate the notion that the illusion is real, for illusions incite all insane, destructive behavior.) Of course when my dog looked at an image and became fear-based and angry, he was never seeing anything but a reflection; however, once he took the reflection to be real and separate and threatening-thinking the reflection to be an OTHER-he fought the foolish fight. (Humans do the same. They fight the foolish fight when they see reflections or illusions that they take to be the real.) Despite my greatest efforts to help the dog realize that what he thought he was seeing was not the real, he reacted as do most humans: If I can see something right before my very eyes, you are the one who must be insane to suggest it is not real.
How does believing in an illusion complicate life? The dog illustrates the point perfectly. When he took the image to be real, the dog tried to make himself appear even tougher. He adopted a phony persona and behaved more violently. He tried to appear to be even more intimidating than the image that he thought real; thus, he became even more aggressive. The more the illusion seemed to be attacking him, the greater his counterattack. The greater his counterattack, the more real and threatening the illusion appeared to be. He was trapped in a vicious cycle of war, all based in image.
Persons are at war with themselves-with their false selves and false identities. Persons are at war with others, and those wars are based in illusion as well. By trying to appear to be tougher and to be something he was not, the dog reinforced the imaginary self in the mirror and became even more frightened, more confused, and more miserable. And the more frightened and confused and miserable he became, the more chaotic his life became and the more those around him were impacted by his chaos.
(Consider the result if persons in leadership positions were enlightened…not frightened by their faulty perceptions, not thinking that their illusions are real, and not utterly confused but completely logical instead. Imagine the effect if the Don Quixotes of the world Realized that the windmills are just windmills and that they are not threatening opponents. The leaders could then stop their jousting and those around them would no longer be impacted by the war and the chaos that the unenlightened create. That is what APPLIED ADVAITA would look like.)
But what about you? You now see the irony with my dog, correct? There never was any duality. All his madness was based in misconception and illusion. There was the REAL THING and a perceived image. Such is the case with persons. To believe that one is the body is to believe that supposed OTHERS are separate and threatening and that the illusions and images reflected before the eyes are real. As with the dog, just because a person can see a body does not mean that it is real, and just because a person can see the body does not mean that it defines Who or What He or She Really Is.
Is it seen that all duality is false, based as duality is in supposing that one or more real parts can co-exist with one or more other parts that are illusions? No PARTS exist and no illusion can EXIST. It really is just illusion. Only the One Is Real, and by removing the Seven Degrees of Separation that prevent most from ever finding what The One Is, you will ultimately find the Real You…your True Self. Your body is not It. Are you seeing the lie of duality and the truth of Non-Duality more clearly?
THE FIRST DEGREE OF SEPARATION FROM REALITY: Body Identification, Part Three
[The discussion of the illusion of body identification will continue via transcriptions of exchanges during workshops conducted during 2001-2002]:
Questioner: The ARMS-LEGS-ORGANS ILLUSTRATION has shown me something, but I am not sure what.
F: Ha. OK. Hopefully, the consideration first reveals that you are not the body and then, secondly, inspires you to ask, Well, if I am not my body, Who or What am I? The body is momentary. That which GONE or DISAPPEARED when placed in a glass of hot water. In fact, that which the cube truly Is did not GO or DISAPPEAR: all of the pairs of hydrogen atoms that had grouped with various oxygen atoms still remain. Only the appearance of the form that those atoms had manifested in for a time led to the misconception that the cube was destroyed. As with the cube, when the body supposedly dies and dissolves away, the appearance of the form alters but all the elements from which the body was composed still remain. What DISAPPEARED was an image wrongly perceived. In the Arms-Legs-Organs exercise, the arms, legs, and some original organs of your manifested form seem to disappear, but just as the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of the cube remain, so remains That Which You Truly Are. You sensed that truth during the exercise. You did sense that You would still be You, right?
F.: Then what is That which you sense is remaining-even after arms, legs, and organs are gone?
Q.: I sense that I still exist.
F.: Yes. You sense that You still Are. Specifically, You sense the I AM or Your AMNESS which we will discuss later. Another way of understanding the results of the exercise would be to say that YOU EXPERIENCED YOUR PRESENCE. You experienced the truth of the fact that SOMETHING would be present even after most of the physical parts of you-of your body-disappear. During the experiment, you are not sensing your complete body-for much of it is gone-but you are sensing a complete presence. That is what you are aware of when, even without those appendages and organs, you know that You Are still You.
F.: If you understood that pointer totally, no more would need to be heard, but too much remains to block that full understanding. So, we continue. Next, since we have seen that there is no duality, that there is no subject-object duality, Who (or What) can you now conclude knows that consciousness?
Q.: (Questioning look)
F.: Let me put it to you another way. What remains after the body parts are gone that is sensing that presence? What is conscious of that presence?
Q.: I do not know.
F.: That is close! Ha. That which knows the presence or the consciousness of Self, since there is no duality, has to be…CONSCIOUSNESS! It is simple! It is that unprogrammed, unconditioned, prior consciousness that senses Itself in the manifest form which you call your physical body. Wordsworth wrote his Ode on Intimations of Immortality after he had sensed his INFINITE SELF. The arms-legs-organs exercise affords you that same opportunity: to become intimate with Your Immortal or Infinite Self. (Later, we will even amend that concept.) That Is What I Truly Am, and always have Been, and always will Be-hang the body. In the process of Self-Inquiry, we see the false, we see the mirages, we see the images, we see the NOT REAL and we thereby come to know what we are not. The exercise in intended to help you see first what you are not and then sense that You Are something beyond the body. You actually sensed Your own presence remaining, even after much of the body was discarded during the exercise. If you got even that much from the exercise, then you have received the basic benefit: you have been prepared to ask the next logical question. And what would that be?
Q.: Well, as you said earlier: if I am not the body, then What Am I?