Greg Goode: Dialogs ~ 1. The Enlightenment Event 2. The Social Construction of Enlightenment

The Enlightenment Event

Q: I read about the life-changing enlightenment events that people write about – and I haven’t had one. Does this mean I’m not “done” yet?

A: What is it that you’d like to be “done” with?

Q: Suffering. I don’t want to suffer any more.

A: How do you visualize this non-suffering?

Q: Like not having any problems anymore.

A: Life without death? Health without disease? They contain each other. You can’t hold a one-ended stick. The famous stories we read are not about life without birth, illness, death, or unpleasantness. How can there be life without its ups and downs? Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramakrishna, Suzuki Roshi were all struck with cancer. Many teachers and expositors of profound nondual teachings have had family problems, financial problems,health problems, emotional problems.

Q: OK, then what *are* they talking about? Nisargadatta had cancer, but he’s also famous for saying “In my world, nothing goes wrong.” It makes me want the same thing.

A: Good point! Depends upon where you, the interpreter, place the “I”. If you place the “I” at Nisargadatta, then there was a body, with cancer and pain. If Nisargadatta (or any person) is the center of that world, then there is a lot wrong in it.

But if you place the “I” at That which witnesses what occurs, then there is nothing wrong. Nothing happening at all. And nothing missing. It isn’t personal. This “I” is the being of Nisargadatta, you, me, all else. This is where the “I” has always been. It is pure and untouched, and always available.

Q: I want to see this “I”.

A: You can’t see it – it sees you. Awareness sees you. Just like you see your arm, Awareness sees the body/mind you take as yourself. Just like your own seeming passage from waking to deep sleep and back to waking. In deep sleep, there is no evidence that the world or the body is present. That is, the body can’t be said to be there. Yet there’s no sense that “you” are ever missing. Your true “I” does not depend on phenomenal activity to be present. Actually, your true I is not really “present” as in the opposite of “absent.” Rather, it is Presence itself.

Q: But some people seem to know this, and others don’t.

A: There’s no need for this to be known by a person. There is actually no possibility that this can be comprehended or held by a person. Personal grokking is just another coming-and-going experience, like a mood or a runny nose.

Q: I still want to know….

A: If you seek this experience, then do what many others have done — inquire deeply into the supposed makeup of a person. Into the makeup of of life, death, of that which you consider yourself. Of that which would supposedly benefit by “knowing.” Be as intensely motivated to look into these matters as you would be to gasp for air after being held under water. Look everywhere, don’t stop if it gets rough. The search is sweet, but it is not comfortable or reassuring to the assembly labeled as the person. Be unafraid of what might come up.

But be aware that there’s nothing in it for “you.” You won’t have a feeling of pride or accomplishment. And to refer back to our earlier conversation about IT being comprehended by a person – there’s no need, and no possibility that this happen. If it seems like you “got it,” then you haven’t got it.

Q: I must admit that I want to have a story like the ones I read about…

A: Kind of like wanting to be a member of an elite club? If you look closely at your reasons for desiring this, does it have to do with wanting recognition or wanting to be treated in a certain way?

Q: Well, I know it sounds stupid, but yes.

A: This has to do with the marketing and the social construction of these teachings. Have you noticed the contexts where these stories are trotted out? If in a book or website, it is most often in the “advertising” part of the presentation, and not in the actual teaching itself. If there is understanding, why does it matter if it came in one large piece or many small pieces? You can get just as wet in a long mist as you can in a short storm. But storms sell better. Many of them are manufactured for that very reason, just like in movie studios.

Q: But even you have such a story!

A: I know, and it’s in the advertising part of the website, not in any of the serious teachings. It’s another case of social construction. The events in that story took place many years before they gelled as a “set-piece” narrative. The gelling happened only in a social context, which is how “nothing” becomes “something.” When I was doing inquiry, it was on my own. None of my friends at the time were into anything like that. My only companions were books. I wasn’t part of a spiritual social context in which a premium is placed on certain stories, and where there is lots of comparison of people and states.

And then, many years after the events, someone asked me on an internet list what I attended to as a practice. I said “nothing,” and to make linguistic sense in a public context as to “why not,” I related those events. To me they had nothing more to do with “things as is” than anything else did. But I had learned enough in the intervening years about these stories to see what made sense to people. So this is what I spoke. It soon became regarded as a fixed thing, as an “enlightenment event,” and people began to regard me differently. I came to find out that people consume these stories with even more fascination than they consume nondual teachings!

But to desire a story like this for one’s own is the result of a misunderstanding.

Q: What kind of misunderstanding

A: It constructs a subtle personal agenda, which pretty much precludes insight. It’s like trying to become sexually aroused by comparing one’s state with others’ states. It just doesn’t work like that. The same for “being done.” In any of the great descriptions of enlightenment, your freedom is freedom from agendas. It’s not about being a person who has a story to tell. That makes no sense. Rather, it’s that you, as you truly are, are free from the assumptions and limitations of personhood. The person is never free of story. But you, as your true nature, are prior to story. This is freedom.

This freedom is now. It never becomes achieved, because from the get-go it is never unaccomplished. There is no need to “see” this or “know” this or “possess” this. Rather, it possesses you. Even now. No separate experience proves or establishes this. No separate experience can overturn it.

On the other hand, experiences themselves come and go. Any experience, no matter how much it’s immortalized in books and spiritual stories, has no meaning apart from the reference point of a person. It has no more significance than the person has. And of course the person comes and goes as well. Not only in birth and death, but the coming and going is in each moment. Even in everyday terms, there’s no evidence that “your” person is there at all. When you walk, you don’t witness yourself walking, like seeing a DVD. And if you see a movie of “yourself” walking, it’s not “you,” it’s a body on a screen. You never experience yourself doing anything. There’s just walking, and sitting, and eating, and loving, etc., for all of experience.

Even to “know” this or to “realize” this is another experience. Enlightenment never pertains to a person in the first place. Enlightenment is not “in” the now. It is this now-ness, this freedom itself. It can’t be bottled up and put on a shelf, confined to one person rather than another, or transmitted. It’s already across the board. It’s now wherever you point, un-interrupted, without gaps.

It’s not that “everyone is already enlightened.” Rather, people and things are appearances in light.

If you find yourself wanting some experience to confirm this, you are actually changing the subject. It is not this now-ness that you are addressing, but some ordinary human need. Human needs are addressed by human endeavors. Just like eating addresses hunger and community addresses loneliness. The needs that express themselves through a search for an “enlightenment experience” are not well addressed through nondual inquiry. But these needs are very efficiently satisfied if you gain clarity on the needs themselves and pursue the most direct route.

The Social Construction of Enlightenment

Q: I must admit, when I think of being enlightened, I don’t imagine myself at work on the midnight shift at the local 7-11!

A: The “enlightenment” concept is socially constructed. No one imagines being enlightened on a desert island. No one imagines that other people would be totally oblivious, treating you the same old way as before. The way the term works, it functions like currency in social contexts, especially where comparative interpersonal assessments come into play. It is the ultimate “arriving” and being seen as arriving.

The term’s vagueness allows it to be filled-in with whatever the heart desires, and most of the visualizations tend to be social. Of course this is largely due to social precedent. When you think of others to whom the “E” term has been applied, you notice that they well known personages surrounded by others. The social trappings tend to get internalized, buried into the very notion itself. So when we test the concept against ourselves, these social elements are already in the picture.

Even the classic “climbing the mountain” metaphor has its social elements. Enlightenment is cast as the ultimate ascent up Mount Everest. When “done,” you set your flag on top, kick back and rest forever. The sub-zero cold doesn’t bother you, and you no longer need food. But wait! You’re not alone! You enjoy the view with other luminaries, everyone pumped up by the endorphin-rush of the climb. Often, part of the package is imagining being seen by others who haven’t gotten so far up the mountain.

There certainly are teachings that construct an enlightenment package like this. But you can learn a lot by noticing the context. That is, take a close look at just where and when the enlightenment-talk occurs. If you’re reading a book or website, it is most often in the “advertising” portion. But the more deeply you get into the teachings themselves, the less you hear about “enlightenment.” Its socially-constructed nature is taken advantage of to interest you in the rest.

I have a friend who spent five years, six days a week with a famous American teacher. This teacher uses the “Enlightenment” term more often than anyone else on the planet. In public talks and popular books, that is! But in the teacher’s school and communities, “enlightenment” is never heard in the day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year teachings. So one day after about five years, my friend asked the organization’s second-in-command whether anyone had become enlightened while working with this teacher. The second-in-command answered “Enlightened? No. Only the Teacher Himself.”

It’s a sizzle used to sell a steak.

— Dr. Greg Goode —
Greg has been a philosophical counselor since 1996 and has extensive experience with online consultation. After studying Psychology at California State University. Greg studied philosophy at the Universität zu Köln in Cologne, Germany, and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. His areas of specialization were decision theory, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of George Berkeley. His doctoral dissertation was on the question, “Is it ever rational to be impatient?”
Consultation, Healing, and Nondual Inquiry
As a philosophical counselor, Greg is nationally certified by the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, trained by Prof. Lou Marinoff, author of the well-known Plato Not Prozac!; and by California State University, Fullerton’s J. Michael Russell — a true pioneer in the philosophical consultation movement.
Nondual inquiry includes the powerful teachings of Western Philosophy, Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. Greg studied Philosophy with Lewis White Beck, William T. Bluhm, Richard Feldman, Henry Kyburg, Richard Taylor, Colin M. Turbayne and Paul Weirich at the University of Rochester. He studied Advaita Vedanta through the Chinmaya Mission, the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, and Francis Lucille. He studied the Mahayana teachings of Pure Land Buddhism through Jodo-Shinshu, and studied Chinese Middle-Way Buddhism through the lineage of Master Wen Zhu and the pre-eminent scholar of Chinese Buddhism, Master Yin-Shun of Taiwan, P.R.C., author of The Way to Buddhahood.
Greg has also been influenced by the teachings of many teachers he has never met, both Western and Eastern, ancient and modern. The Western teachers include Protagoras, Heraclitus, Gorgias, Sextus Empiricus, George Berkeley, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W.V.O. Quine, Nelson Goodman, Brand Blanshard, Jacques Derrida, Wilfrid Sellars, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Richard Lanham and Richard Rorty. Eastern teachers include Shankara, Gaudapada, Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Tsong-Khapa, Honen Shonin, Shinran Shonin, Sri Atmananda, Shunryu Suzuki, Thich-Thien-Tam and Chin-Kung.
Publication Activities
Greg serves as Technical Consultant for Philosophical Practice, the Journal of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. He has written Standing as Awareness, published by Nonduality Press, and many popular articles on spiritual, therapeutic and philosophical topics, including
“Another Kind of Self-Inquiry,”
“Free Will and Freedom,”
“Is Spiritual Practice Necessary?,”
“Nondualism, Yogas and Personality Characteristics.”
Greg is well-known innovator for having combined the ancient “direct-path” method of self-inquiry with modern electronic media. He has been a member of the International Society for Mental Health Online, which studies the techniques and effectiveness of online consultation. He create the Nondual Phil forum and since the mid-1990’s he has been a moderator and active contributor on philosophical and spiritual Internet lists, including the Nonduality Salon, Advaitin, Advaita-L, Dharma-Direct, DirectApproach, EndOfTheRopeRanch, AdvaitaToZen, HarshaSatsangh, and TheRoomOfThis.

Presuppositions about Enlightenment; Forms of Samadhi – Greg Goode

Discusses how enlightenment is not an experienced object, and isn’t transmitted by contact with other people. Also discusses various kinds of samadhi, which are easier in the direct path.

Demystifying Patanjali: The Yoga Sutras: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda as Presented by his Direct Disciple, Swami Kriyananda by Paramhansa Yogananda (Author)

What happens as we grow spiritually? Is there a step-by-step process that everyone goes through—all spiritual seekers, including those of any or no religious persuasion—as they gradually work their way upward, until they achieve the highest state of Self-realization?

About 2200 years ago, a great spiritual master of India named Patanjali described this process, and presented humanity with a clear-cut, step-by-step outline of how all truth seekers and saints achieve divine union. He called this universal inner experience and process “yoga” or “union.” His collection of profound aphorisms—a true world scripture—has been dubbed Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Unfortunately, since that time many scholarly translators with little or no spiritual realization have written commentaries on Patanjali’s writings that have succeeded only in burying his pithy insights in convoluted phrases like “becomes assimilated with transformations” and “the object alone shines without deliberation.” How can any reader understand Patanjali’s original meaning when he or she has to wade through such bewildering terminology?

Thankfully, a great modern yoga master—Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi—has cut through the scholarly debris and resurrected Patanjali’s original teachings and revelations. Now, in Demystifying Patanjali, Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda, shares his guru’s crystal clear and easy-to-grasp explanations of Patanjali’s aphorisms.

As Kriyananda writes in his introduction, “My Guru personally shared with me some of his most important insights into these sutras. During the three and a half years I lived with him, he also went with me at great length into the basic teachings of yoga.
“I was able, moreover, to ask my Guru personally about many of the subjects covered by Patanjali. His explanations have lingered with me, and have been a priceless help in the [writing of this book].”

Paramhansa Yogananda was a great yoga master and world teacher of the twentieth century. His spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, has inspired millions worldwide.

Demystifying Patanjali: The Yoga Sutras (Talk 1)

Demystifying Patanjali (Talk 1) by Nayaswami Asha on March 19, 2013 at Ananda Temple in Palo Alto, California. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are among the most central teachings on the subject of yoga and meditation.

My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda – Swami Kriyananda

Based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, and his close, direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda

Spiritual Yoga: Awakening to Higher Awareness by Gyandev McCord (Author) , Swami Kriyananda (Foreword)

Many thousands of Yoga practitioners yearn to explore the spiritual dimensions of the poses they practice every week. Spiritual Yoga fills a gap left by most modern Yoga manuals, which tell everything about bodily alignment and physical benefits, but leave out Yoga’s higher dimensions: subtle energy control, meditation, and inner enlightenment.

In this book, Nayaswami Gyandev McCord shares these spiritual teachings as originally taught by the great Yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi) and Yogananda’s direct disciple (and Nayaswami Gyandev’s teacher), Swami Kriyananda. These teachings include: the mind-energy-body connection; the art of meditation; dozens of techniques for spiritualizing one’s Yoga postures practice; spiritual Yoga routines; affirmations and energy control suggestions for standing, seated, relaxation, and inverted postures; mastering pranayama (energy control), and breathing exercises for specific results (greater energy, calmness, concentration, etc.); and Yoga as a way of life.

As Nayaswami Gyandev writes in his introduction: “Imagine that you’ve hired Michelangelo to repaint your kitchen cabinets. Plain white. No doubt he would do a great job, but might you be missing out on something much better?

“It’s the same with Hatha Yoga, the physical branch of the greater science of (Raja) Yoga. If you practice only for its physical and psychological benefits — increased flexibility, strength, and vitality, reduced pain or stress, and so on — you’ll receive some of those benefits, but you’re likely to miss out on something much better! For Hatha Yoga is above all a tool for spiritual growth. Its highest purpose is to help you raise your consciousness and achieve ever-greater happiness.

“Can mere bodily positions and breathing exercises do that for you? A little bit, yes, but much more is possible if you know how to amplify the effects of these practices through the hidden powers of your mind and heart. This book shows you how. If you’re new to Hatha Yoga, you’ll find here instructions to begin a safe, enjoyable practice that will raise your consciousness. If you’re experienced, you’ll find many ways to deepen your practice by working more directly with energy and consciousness.”

Nayaswami Gyandev McCord is the director of Ananda Yoga Teacher Training, which he teaches at The Expanding Light Retreat in Northern California. For more than 30 years he has taught Ananda Yoga® around the world. Gyandev has worked closely with Swami Kriyananda (founder of Ananda Yoga, and a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda) to fine-tune the teachings and practice of Ananda Yoga.
Gyandev is also a lecturer and minister, and a founding board member of Yoga Alliance, the non-profit organization that sets professional training standards for yoga teachers in the U.S. In addition to Spiritual Yoga: Higher Awareness Through Ananda Yoga, he has coauthored two books (with Dr. Peter Van Houten) — Yoga Therapy for Headache Relief and Yoga Therapy for Overcoming Insomnia — and has produced two videos: Yoga for Busy People and Yoga to Awaken the Chakras, as well as the 12-volume video set, The Ananda Yoga Series.

Prior to embarking on the yogic path, Gyandev received a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Stanford University. After deeply contemplating the purpose of life, he decided to relinquish the outer science of mathematics to explore the inner science of yoga. Since 1984 Gyandev has lived at Ananda Village in Northern California.

Inspiration from God

While giving a sermon on June 26, 2011, the minister gets interrupted near the end of his talk.

How to Transcend Astrological Influences by Paramhansa Yogananda

Astrology is a very deep subject, but most people consider it a kind of superstitious guide to material progress. If you use astrology only for guidance in material matters, you will be doing its teachings an injustice. Astrology is too vast, both mathematically and philosophically, to be rightly grasped except by people of profound understanding. In ancient times, astrology was seen primarily as a guide to spiritual development. To use astrology for material purposes was considered a lower application of what is essentially a divine science.

Astrology is the study of man’s response to planetary stimuli. All parts of creation are linked together and interchange their influences. No matter what your environment, the surrounding rays of the earth and universe will have an impact upon you. Astrology was intended to assist you on your inner journey, by helping you become more aware of the interrelationships between the objective universe and the inner aspects of yourself.

The relation of the stars to the human body and mind is very subtle. There is a correlation between the six centers (chakras) in the spine, which become twelve by polarity, and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Millions of volts of electrical current are lodged in these spinal centers. If your body and your mind are very strong, you will be impervious to the evil vibrations from the stars when they begin to shed their rays upon you. But if your body and mind are weak through transgressions of wrong eating, wrong thinking, bad character, and bad company, then the stellar rays will have the power to affect you.

How the stars affect us
The stars influence your life only in accordance with patterns that you yourself established in the past. A child is born on that day and at that hour when the celestial rays are in mathematical harmony with his individual karma (past actions). The astrological configurations serve only as symbols of karmic influences, which you have set into motion in the past. The stars and planets themselves can no more choose how they will affect you than you can select your own karmic destiny.

The message boldly blazoned across the heavens at the moment of birth was not meant to emphasize fate, the result of past good and evil, but to arouse your will to escape from this universal bondage. What you have done, you can undo. You can overcome whatever effects are now prevalent in your life because you created them by your own actions in the first place, and because you have inner spiritual resources which are not subject to planetary pressure.

The best way, therefore, to improve your lot is deliberately to act in such a way as to counteract the evil effects of past deeds. Especially if this course of action springs from inner attunement with God, or is adopted under the wise guidance of one who knows God, it will serve as an antidote to all baneful actions of the past.

Avoid passive dependence on astrology

Superstition means to seek guidance from effects, in ignorance of their causes. Many people look to the heavens for signs instead of choosing the wiser path of seeking guidance in their souls, from God. Some people refuse to do anything for themselves until the planetary positions are favorable.

While it is not unwise to initiate worthwhile undertakings at astrologically auspicious times, it merely affirms your passive dependence on fate to wait for a shift in the planets’ positions before making important changes in your life. Anything you do with deep faith in God will blossom under better influences than you could hope to find by consulting the heavens for favorable aspects.

Do not wait for changes in astrological influences to change your destiny. Look, rather, to Him who made the heavens and the earth and who alone can grant you eternal freedom. The lawful effects of your karma may seem irrevocable, but the effects of past actions can be changed by seeking God. Unless you remember that, you can not spiritualize astrology.

How to spiritualize astrology

While studying astrology in a reasonable way, you must always remember that God’s influence is the supreme influence. All human ills arise from some transgression of universal law. The scriptures point out that man must satisfy the laws of nature, while not discrediting the divine omnipotence. You should always say, “Lord, I trust in Thee, and know Thou canst help me, but I too will do my best to undo any wrong I have done.”

You have been given the free choice and intelligence, as a child of God, to surmount the difficulties of life. You are made in the image of God, not in the image of the stars. Strive unceasingly, from a center of inner calmness, to surmount every material, mental, and spiritual difficulty. Cooperate with His will by offering up to Him all the strength of your human will.

If you can hold onto your happiness during all the difficulties in your life, then you will begin to rise above the influence of the stars. If you can retain your smile in spite of repeated challenges, that is a sign of the awakening of the consciousness of divinity within you. Through all such actions, you are changing your body and mind and how they are affecting the twelve centers in your spine. As a result of these changes, the stars will begin to smile upon you.

By communing with God, you will reinforce the power of the twelve spinal centers, which will then act in cooperation with the twelve signs of the zodiac. The deeper your communion with God, the more you will automatically harmonize the influences of all planetary forces and transcend the evil effects of the powerful, but distant, planets. In these ways, you can spiritualize astrology.

Seek help, therefore, not from the stars and planets, but from Almighty God. God is harmony; and if you attune yourself to Him, you will never perform any action amiss. Your activities will be correctly and naturally timed to accord with astrological law. After deep prayer and meditation you are in touch with His divine consciousness; there is no greater power than that inward protection. By plunging deeply into your own divine nature, you will discover those deeper levels within yourself that enable you to rise above all karmic realities.

The masters go beyond astrology

Some people study astrology to ascertain the influence of their karma through the medium of planets, thus trying to counteract evil influences by astrological foreknowledge. But the great masters go beyond astrology. The man of realization does not choose any auspicious hour to perform noble deeds or initiate new wholesome ventures. He acts, moves, and sleeps under the one influence of God. He consults God instead of the stars for guidance.

Although there is a certain vibratory influence of stars upon all human lives, a man of infinite will power tuned in with God, uses his free will to change his circumstances. He marches on, influenced only by the Sun of all Suns, the Almighty Spirit. To him, from the depths of his determination and faith, all things are possible. He burns the seeds of difficulties in the fire of wisdom, consults only God for guidance, and performs all of his actions according to divine guidance.

Superstitious awe of astrology makes one an automaton, slavishly dependent on mechanical guidance. The wise man defeats his planets – which is to say, his past – by transferring his allegiance from the creation to the Creator. The more he realizes his unity with Spirit, the less he can be dominated by matter. The soul is ever-free; it is deathless because birthless. It cannot be regimented by stars.

If you live by astrology or anything else you will be bound by it. Depend wholly and solely on God. Live by God alone. Then nothing can hurt you.

Follow the way to inner freedom

In karma’s realm, karma rules supreme. Yet all human beings have the power to withdraw to another realm altogether. You cannot change the outer astrological influences, but you can do a great deal to change the way you receive them, inwardly.

Instead of accepting fatalistically the decrees of karma, follow the inner way to freedom. Meditate daily. Commune deeply with God. Learn from Him, through the silent voice of intuition, the way out of soul-degrading serfdom to bad habits. Ultimately, by ever deeper meditation, you will reach a point where you receive your influences from God alone.

From books and articles.

Source: Clarity Magazine

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