Bobby Visits Adyashanti's Satsang
File under: Satsang Report
Among the denizens of Sarlo's GuruRatings whom we admire, Bobby Meizer is in the top five. He has graciously offered this report after attending a recent Adyashanti satsang in Santa Cruz, California:
I consider myself an “online student” of Don James. He says that awakening can be “sparked” by being in the physical presence of someone who is awake, if one adopts the proper relaxation of mind and openness of heart. I have proposed to test his assertion experimentally by trying to adopt the attitude Don suggests in the physical presence of people who Don judges are, or may be, awake. Adyashanti is one person that Don thinks is awake who comes to the Santa Cruz area on occasion, so I went to one of his public appearances when the opportunity presented itself.That sounds like a ringing endorsement coming from Bobby, who does a great job keeping us (and others) in check on the list, along with himself of course.
Adyashanti's Santa Cruz area satsangs are held in the “sanctuary” at the Inner Light Center in Soquel. It's a high-ceilinged auditorium (with balcony) that seats a few hundred people. Admission was $10 which the publicity made clear was a fee, not a donation. That's admirable honesty, but did make it impossible for me to gauge the reaction when I declined to donate (a tactic which can be quite revealing of what's truly important to a teacher). I paid my admission and took a seat in the front row, but on the far right side which, because of the angle of the room, gave me an excellent view of the chair and microphone that were standing in for Adyashanti. The attendance was good; I would guess that around 250 people were there. This satsang was being videotaped, and we were informed that all the people who came up to talk to Adyashanti would be asked to sign releases so the video could be distributed. The woman who told us this and other information then introduced a man who came up on stage and played a flute, rather well I thought, for several minutes while people listened silently.
A moment after the flutist left the stage Adyashanti walked out and sat down in his chair. He closed his eyes, sitting straight and still, for a few minutes of silence. Recent remarks by Arvind on the Guru Ratings Forum attested to Adyashanti's shaking and physical nervousness. I didn't notice any of that. He seemed quite at ease to me. After the few minutes of silence he opened his eyes, adjusted his microphone, and gave his talk. This one, it seemed to me, was about how, along with someone most ardently desiring awakening, there must also be a powerful fear or aversion to it operating, or else one would awaken. He traced this aversion to the fact that awakening means the end of the world as we know it, a daunting prospect for most everyone. Then he spent a long time flogging a metaphor about the best thing on the menu being throwing away the menu (and getting a lot of laughs in the process). He was preaching detachment from one's own beliefs, opinions, tastes by holding out the carrot of awakening (which in a mysterious way, that I can't pretend to understand, is outside of time). That seemed like the gist of it, though I must admit that I wasn't listening too closely as I focused on relaxing and opening to Adyashanti's physical presence.
After his talk he opened the floor to one-on-one interaction. He would call on people with their hands up in the audience to come up to the front, below the stage, and speak into a microphone positioned there. On this occasion every one of them was someone who had spoken with Adyashanti at some previous satsang. Some of them were obviously serious students of his. It started with a woman who expressed effusive thanks and gratitude to Adyashanti for “saving” her and her daughter's lives with the teaching and sound parenting advice he'd given her at a previous satsang. She cried at points, giggled at others; it was pretty clear to me that she truly believed he had helped her cope much better with her life, and I saw no reason to doubt it from what she said. None of the other people who took the mike were that dramatic, but they were all interested in Adyashanti's guidance in their personal process of inquiry. It was very similar to what I've seen in other satsangs.
The modern nondualist teacher is as much a pastoral counselor, if not more, than any priest, rabbi or imam. What apparently works the magic in nondualism is the idea of a _________ (fill in the blank with whatever word you use for the unsayable), which is considered real, while “all this” is just an illusion. This seeing of everything separate as an illusion can indeed help people let go of all kinds of attachments, attitudes, beliefs, expectations, hurts, etc. That's a good thing. Of course, strictly speaking it's nonsense because the only reality a temporal entity can grasp is exactly all the stuff which gets labelled illusion, while what is labelled real is entirely incomprehensible to a being in time. This remains unchanged by the fact that “all this” is but the real appearance of an incomprehensible _________. In the purest sense, it's all just a well-intentioned trick in which people are fooled by doubletalk into letting go of their character armor; beautiful to see and/or experience when it actually works.
As to the other transmission, the one that isn't of words, I didn't get that from Adyashanti. Which is not to say that he didn't give it. If transmission requires the proper attitude on the part of the recipient to take place then one can never disprove a teacher's ability to “transmit”, only either prove it or fail to prove it. In the end, the experiment is entirely subjective. To me, Adyashanti seemed quite capable as a lecturer and counselor. Others have attested to me his abilities as a community leader as well, and I see no reason to doubt them. My superficial impression of him and his community is positive, and I think that those who are looking for a modern American-style nondualist teacher might be well advised to check him out for themselves.