Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Guru Of The Universal God

File under: The Siddhi of PR

As we were trying to scrape something up to write about, we saw an ad with this Melissa Etheridge blurb: "A commonsense approach [leading] to inner peace." The link led us to God Without Religion, a website and a book written by the seemingly very learned and well-disciplined Sankara Saranam:
After living as an ascetic for nearly two decades, engaging day and night in sophisticated methods of sense-introversion, and eventually coming to an inner understanding of how the human sense of identity manifests, I felt burdened by my discovery and needed to share what I'd found.
We believe we know how the human sense of identity manifests, too! It's all about significance, how the mind ranks its catalog of memories, ideas and emotions. But let's get back to Sankara. We're admittedly a bit envious of his credentials. He's also:
... formally studied engineering, music, Eastern classics, and comparative religion in universities, and [has] lived as a monk.
It sounds like he's almost ready to walk on water! And we do like the idea of God beyond religion. That's pretty much how it has been all along. That's why a Muslim, a Hindu and a Christian can all have authentic religious experience and yet believe each other to be in league with demons. As Ramakrishna said: "As many faiths, so many paths."

But our lurve went swimming with the penguins when we read this:
The sense of self, or identity, can expand to include all of humanity, regardless of nationality, beliefs, ethnicity, race, gender, or lifestyle.
Sankara's namesake, Adi Shankara, would beg to differ on that point. The sense of self, whether limited to an individual or seemingly containing the whole world, is still a limitation of who we really are. It is illusory from the regard of that truth.

This "expansion" of the sense of self is simply a manipulation of the ego. That's not to say it's wrong to identify with others. Empathy and compassion are good for you and the world. But stretching your identification to include your experience is like smearing yourself into your surroundings, and this is one of the occluding monsters in spiritual culture. Self-realization does not result in feeling identified with one's surroundings. It can only result in one thing, recognizing that one has always been the Self, which has connection only to itself and lies completely in, and yet completely outside the phenomenal world.

We sent Sankara an email through his site asking what such a statement has to do with self-realization. We'll share his answer if he gets back to us. Until then, we can't really recommend Sankara Saranam and his book as a source of information about self-realization. But we always recommend that everyone start their own religion. We all have that anyway, so we may as well be as freestyle as we wanna be, yo!

18 Comments:

At 12/21/2005 11:26 AM, Blogger facedog said...

Dear Jody,

If by "expansion of sence of self" you mean that an individual's feeling of identity starts dissolving a little and instead of seeing your body in a mirror and feeling "that is who I am.", you begin to have a similar experience when you look at a mountain or another human body and feel, "this is who I am", that is a naturally occuring "experience" as the mind settles with prolonged sadhana. There is also the experience of "witnessing" which occurs naturally. These are not concepts to be adopted, they are just different kinds of subtle awareness, on the way.

How do you know that ideas about self realization keep it from occuring? Isn't that just another idea that you believe in? Not that I don't agree.

 
At 12/21/2005 1:03 PM, Blogger jody said...

you begin to have a similar experience when you look at a mountain or another human body and feel, "this is who I am", that is a naturally occuring "experience" as the mind settles with prolonged sadhana

Whether or not that's true, it has nothing to do with our truth as the Self, which has nothing to do with anything, or everything to do with everything, not something to do with somethings, like mountains or other people. Such an experience is limited by experience as an experience. It is not because of, or the result of self-realization.

How do you know that ideas about self realization keep it from occuring?

Well, I am speculating a bit. The truth is that we are always the Self, whether we know it directly or not. What would keep us from knowing this? There's a list 1000 miles long, depending on who you ask. But to my mind, it seems like ideas about realization serve only to block the actual understanding from coming to light. See my "eggs of the cowbird" piece for more detail.

 
At 12/21/2005 8:17 PM, Blogger facedog said...

Don't you think that mentally speculating about anything that cannot be understood by the mind would create an imagination in the mind, thereby limiting and keeping the true understanding from dawning? I was not suggesting that witnessing or an expanded sense of self was the result of Self Realization, only that they are possible experiences pointing to some relaxation of the mind's control having occured.

 
At 12/21/2005 8:29 PM, Blogger jody said...

Don't you think that mentally speculating about anything that cannot be understood by the mind would create an imagination in the mind, thereby limiting and keeping the true understanding from dawning?

Absolutely!

I was not suggesting that witnessing or an expanded sense of self was the result of Self Realization, only that they are possible experiences pointing to some relaxation of the mind's control having occured.

The mind's control over what? The mind is its control. It isn't the mind's control of itself which occludes. That's just the automatic functioning of the person as that constellation of thought, memory and feeling as it exists as the software of the human organism.

I get what you are saying, that these things are indicative of some kind of transformation occurring. But they aren't any closer to the truth of the Self than anything else. Thinking that they are occludes just as much as the thought that we must be someone other than who we already are to come to our own self-realization.

 
At 12/22/2005 8:31 AM, Blogger facedog said...

In the same way, thinking that that any thought "occludes" more than any other is itself a doctrine, a point of belief that forces awareness into a structure as hard to release as the thought that someone is God.

I have noticed that people with sharp intellects, especially men, become very devoted to ideas. These ideas seem so pure and clean to them, objects to be honored and worshipped.

Every thought of any kind has to be let go of. Meditation helps by helping us to gradually be alert enough to be present at the place where these thoughts come from. Then we are home.

 
At 12/22/2005 9:09 AM, Blogger jody said...

In the same way, thinking that that any thought "occludes" more than any other is itself a doctrine, a point of belief that forces awareness into a structure as hard to release as the thought that someone is God.

Not necessarily. Think about it. I can think the cup is red. That does not occlude. The cup is red from the regard of my vision and its process in the brain. Now if I think self-realization will allow me to see the future, how can I be self-realized if I don't see the future, or feel smeared out into the world, or have lost my sense of who I am in the world. These all occlude, because none of them has anything to do with self-realization. But believing they do replaces jnana in the mind. In other words, thinking that realization will smear my sense of self into the world creates the expectation that such will happen at self-realization, making the true fact that I am already realized false, as I'm not smeared out into the world right now.

I have noticed that people with sharp intellects, especially men, become very devoted to ideas. These ideas seem so pure and clean to them, objects to be honored and worshipped.

I call that NonDualThink™, a pernicious ideological disease of those who accept nondual truths intellectually, thus clogging their brains with their concepts of the truth, replacing the actual understanding. It's one of the occluding biggies.

Every thought of any kind has to be let go of.

I disagree. It's the idea that "I am the thinker" that's got to be discarded. The thinking will continue post-realization. It's the nature of the mind to do so, and no mind, no life.

Meditation helps by helping us to gradually be alert enough to be present at the place where these thoughts come from. Then we are home.

I'd say meditation helps by introducing sattvas into the mind, clearing away and allowing one to fall into the space between thoughts, where jnana lives in all.

 
At 12/23/2005 10:03 AM, Blogger facedog said...

.
8:09 AM
Jody said:

The mind's control over what? The mind is its control. It isn't the mind's control of itself which occludes. That's just the automatic functioning of the person as that constellation of thought, memory and feeling as it exists as the software of the human organism.

It is not just one kind of thought that obscures awareness of our identity as the infinite Self. Any one of these constellations of thoughts, memories, etc. will do. We are watching a movie and forget that it is a movie. Next thing you know, we have a sword in our hand and are saving the world with it. One belief is as good as another, at the subtlest level of the mind, to obscure the infinite because they all cause the appearance of separation. If you believe that certain thoughts are more dangerous than others, you are separate. If you believe that it is better for you not to believe in these “occluding biggies”, this may help you to let go of not only the occluding beliefs but also the idea that you need to do that in order to progress, to be Self Realized. Much in the same way, people may get inspired by believing their gurus are God, or by books like Autobiography of a Yogi, filled with miracle stories. For a while we are carried along by this inspiration. We use that inspiration to look deeper, eventually letting go of the imaginary support those beliefs provided for us.

At some point, always now of course, we realize we are not in a movie, just watching it. Regular practice of meditation, even the mass marketed TM, which was able to be mass marketed because, like ordinary gravity, it works, helps us to wake up. Whether it’s because sattvas are added to the mind, or because the mind is purified, or whether the practice just helps us to become alert to subtle Existence, it doesn’t matter how you say it. It is just talk.

To fill in the time in this desert world, it is fun to have missions, like battling false gurus and their occluding belief systems. It’s fun and noble work. I salute you, Jody!

 
At 12/23/2005 11:27 AM, Blogger jody said...

One belief is as good as another, at the subtlest level of the mind, to obscure the infinite because they all cause the appearance of separation.

I don't agree. As I said, I can believe the cup is red. That obscures nothing. But if I believe I'll know the thoughts of others due to realization, and I find I don't know the thoughts of others, then I must not be realized.

The thing about jnana is that it is always present in a life, no matter what is going on. Every single being on the planet, saint or criminal, can look at their field of awareness and somewhere find the Self. It's in everyone at all times as the foundation of our being. It's not something that is achieved, it's something that's noticed, and when it's noticed, it's known to have always been there.

So, ideas about what realization is like are the worst of the ideas which occlude, because these ideas directly inhibit the awareness from being seen, unlike the idea that the cup is red, etc.

To fill in the time in this desert world, it is fun to have missions, like battling false gurus and their occluding belief systems. It’s fun and noble work. I salute you, Jody!

I know I'm tilting at windmills, but it's my raison d'etre now. I'm glad you've been enjoying the show.

 
At 12/23/2005 2:29 PM, Blogger falseguru said...

Jody, you just believe this. You have no way of knowing. You are taking what your own mind is telling you on faith, just as any other devotee does.

 
At 12/23/2005 2:39 PM, Blogger jody said...

Jody, you just believe this. You have no way of knowing. You are taking what your own mind is telling you on faith, just as any other devotee does.

And you just believe that. You have no way of knowing what I know, so you make assumptions based on your speculations about me.

Unfortunately, I have no way of proving the veracity of my contentions to you. To make claims about my own understanding are sure to be met with disbelief and derision. Thus I remain a mere asshole with an opinion, a definition I feel rather comfortable with.

 
At 12/23/2005 3:37 PM, Blogger falseguru said...

I like assholes. I get along with them. So maybe that makes me one too. Just the other guy the same leeway that you give yourself: namely that you know something that can't be proved.

I appreciate your work here.

 
At 12/23/2005 4:23 PM, Blogger jody said...

Just [give] the other guy the same leeway that you give yourself: namely that you know something that can't be proved.

Fair enough. However, I remain convinced that ideas about self-realization are the most effective fetters to its coming about. The idea that the guru oozes realization is one of those ideas. We all have the same basis of truth, whether a long time guru or a beginning devotee, so anything that happens in the way of spiritual experience is mediated by our own connection to ourselves, rather than being the result of another person's power.

So, you can sit with your guru, or your wife or next to a waterfall and have what you might consider a spiritual experience. The point I'm trying to make is that it's from within you that the experience manifests. Guru, wife or waterfall are all just apparent triggers.

The idea that when you come to realization, you'll ooze it like your guru, keeps you from the seeing the truth that exists in you right now, outside of any experience of oozing by you or your guru. The fact is that realization brings nothing except the direct and experiential knowledge of the truth of our self. All the magic and myth are just what's accreted by way of people's desire to like themselves. Because how can they not like themselves if they have everyone fawning over them because they are gurus. The actual truth of self-realization is much more mundane and ordinary. But that doesn't sell. What good would self-realization be if you don't get anything out of it? It does have value for sure, just not in the way 99% of the seeking community is expecting it to.

I appreciate your work here.

I'm happy you are enjoying my rants. Please tell all your friends.

 
At 12/24/2005 11:17 AM, Blogger falseguru said...

Jody said:

Fair enough. However, I remain convinced that ideas about self-realization are the most effective fetters to its coming about. The idea that the guru oozes realization is one of those ideas. We all have the same basis of truth, whether a long time guru or a beginning devotee, so anything that happens in the way of spiritual experience is mediated by our own connection to ourselves, rather than being the result of another person's power.

falseguru said:

You are convinced ideas about self realization are fetters because you are an “idea” person.
When I was a kid, just starting to meditate, read Autobiography of a Yogi, shed Christian fundamentalist guilt, I believed that I would soon be a worker of miracles, a holy man with beautiful women to serve me, able to fly and raise the dead, all while remaining humble. In retrospect, though imaginary and silly, these ideas helped me shed the black necktie of my Christian upbringing. But it wasn’t new and better ideas alone that did it, though they resonated with who I felt myself to be at that time. I was actually sitting down daily and meditating, spending time approaching the silent Self. It worked. Old ideas leave when knowledge comes in. Plus, I was simply growing up. The ideas, desires, aspirations of a 20 something gave rise to those of a 30 something. In my 30's, I just hoped God or Guru would save my tired ass, help me keep my nose above water for one more day, save my children from becoming what I had become... I was beginning to feel that God wanted to kill me. But I kept meditating and the silence kept becoming easier to be aware of, even when ordinary life was tearing me up.

Even the nondual ideas that you believe in and that clearly express your own level of Self knowledge may become tiresome as you mature. So why be so hard on other people who may still be a half step behind you and still enjoy or need to believe their gurus will save them or give them a million dollars? They too will grow up.

Jody said:

So, you can sit with your guru, or your wife or next to a waterfall and have what you might consider a spiritual experience. The point I'm trying to make is that it's from within you that the experience manifests. Guru, wife or waterfall are all just apparent triggers.

falseguru said:

I don’t want to debate what is a “spiritual” experience and what is not. People who go to Gurus hoping to secure a better job, a male child rather than a female, a mate, a new kidney are living on a selfish, fearful level. Having been there I understand why we do it. But sometimes miracles happen. In fact, after I met my Guru, so many of my heartfelt desires have come about: the ones I had grown out of and no longer wanted. Faith can create miracles in the relative world.

You can say that all the transformational experiences that people have arise out of themselves because the time was right, and I agree. But if another being is there, be it Guru or wife or friend or waterfall, some acknowledgment of them on the surface level is due, correct and helpful to a mature person. It’s a way of saying, this didn’t rise out of my little self, but out of my Self, that I am a witness of. Gratitude is always appropriate. I am not one of those who believe in the magic around gurus. Finding a great wife did not fulfill all my fantasies but she has been part of a magical transformation. My Guru and wife both have inspired me to keep going, keep aspiring to be more alert to what is true and what is not. I do not hesitate to thank my wife or touch the feet of my Guru when I can. It’s a beautiful tradition and I am grateful to have its support.

Jody said:

The actual truth of self-realization is much more mundane and ordinary. But that doesn't sell. What good would self-realization be if you don't get anything out of it? It does have value for sure, just not in the way 99% of the seeking community is expecting it to.

falseguru said:

I fully agree. From one asshole with an opinion to another, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Jody.

 
At 12/24/2005 2:46 PM, Blogger jody said...

You are convinced ideas about self realization are fetters because you are an “idea” person.

That doesn't mean the idea has no veracity.

Even the nondual ideas that you believe in and that clearly express your own level of Self knowledge may become tiresome as you mature.

If you want to express the nondual truth, which so many seem to be looking for, you're pretty much stuck using nondual ideas.

So why be so hard on other people who may still be a half step behind you and still enjoy or need to believe their gurus will save them or give them a million dollars? They too will grow up.

It's a personal thing. I take it personally that my head was stuffed with a big fat set of lies about self-realization. If jnana shines in all, what's keeping it from being noticed? The thing that screams out to me are the expectations about realization, because they mask the present truth directly, rather than indirectly.

Faith can create miracles in the relative world.

Sure. But it's not magic. You met your guru and things fell into place. That's awesome. But that doesn't prove that the guru wields some kind of power over the lives of his/her devotees. Things happen as they happen. It's great when it's good, but I never get comfortable with good.

Gratitude is always appropriate.

Absolutely. But believing in magic isn't. Sure, strange stuff happens. But to posit such always accompanies realization forms another masking thought. It's been made out to be the bestest, most awesome experience, the acme of everything, with lots of special powers and the love of the devotional community. How are people going to see the plain, ordinary and rather mundane truth next to the glare of that?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Jody.

Same to you, your wife and your guru, FG.

 
At 12/26/2005 12:52 PM, Blogger falseguru said...

Hi Jody,

You said:
If you want to express the nondual truth, which so many seem to be looking for, you're pretty much stuck using nondual ideas.

I was thinking that the concepts themselves, not the words used to express them, may loose their grip on you. I often find myself not able to understand these nondual dialogs. But when my mind settles and I am aware of pure consciousness, that is always very familiar. The concept and the reality are poles apart.

You said:
It's a personal thing. I take it personally that my head was stuffed with a big fat set of lies about self-realization. If jnana shines in all, what's keeping it from being noticed? The thing that screams out to me are the expectations about realization, because they mask the present truth directly, rather than indirectly.

I can understand taking this personally. It took years to get over the programming after I left a large “spiritual” group. But if you don’t give credit to the guru for any profound experience that might be had in that vicinity, why take the negative experience as coming from the guru?

You said:
Sure. But it's not magic. You met your guru and things fell into place. That's awesome. But that doesn't prove that the guru wields some kind of power over the lives of his/her devotees.

I would not be around a guru who would try to wield power or claim to have the ability to do it. I did read a book by S Chinmoy 20 years ago in which he claimed to be aware of someone when they picked up one of his books. At that time I was believed this and was impressed. I once asked my Guru if he was aware when a devotee had a profound experience, or a vision of him, etc. He said it had no, that it had nothing to do with him. At my present age, what I want is Peace. In the presence of my Guru, it is easy to be aware of pure consciousness. The Guru is always reminding us that to be aware of our own simple existence as pure consciousness is what we are looking for, not miracles. He made this a priority in his own life, and now works hard to help others go in that direction.

 
At 12/26/2005 4:14 PM, Blogger jody said...

I was thinking that the concepts themselves, not the words used to express them, may loose their grip on you. I often find myself not able to understand these nondual dialogs. But when my mind settles and I am aware of pure consciousness, that is always very familiar. The concept and the reality are poles apart.

Always. Yet when the reality is known, certain concepts make more sense than others. Shankara's Advaita Vedanta makes the most sense to me.

I can understand taking this personally. It took years to get over the programming after I left a large “spiritual” group. But if you don’t give credit to the guru for any profound experience that might be had in that vicinity, why take the negative experience as coming from the guru?

Because gurus should be responsible for the ideological content of their satsangs, in my opinion. Ammachi is allowing her devotees to believe all kinds of crazy things about herself. She should explain that they are wrong and do whatever she can to impress upon them the fact that she is exactly like them, self-realization notwithstanding, which does nothing to make anyone any different. In fact, self-realization makes us understand that there are no differences.

I would not be around a guru who would try to wield power or claim to have the ability to do it.

There's plenty of those out there. They don't have to make the claims themselves, they allow their devotees to make the claims for them.

I once asked my Guru if he was aware when a devotee had a profound experience, or a vision of him, etc. He said it had no, that it had nothing to do with him.

Then I'm liking your guru for that.

The Guru is always reminding us that to be aware of our own simple existence as pure consciousness is what we are looking for, not miracles.

The good guru that is. There are many more who are not, hence the existence of this blog.

 
At 12/27/2005 3:23 PM, Blogger marcy_peanut said...

Jody--I think your brain has been occluded by your obsession with faith-based 'occluders' of the 100th degree. In other words, you always state the same thing, over and over. Why not just write an essay on your occlusion myth © and call it a day.

Why not start a blog about techno music--you know, something we can all dance to and get really happy about. Your rambling on about knowing exactly what Sri Adi Shankaracharya meant is getting quite boring. I want to hear about your experience (I know you are going to say that the Self is not an experience. While this may or may not be true, you use all too often as a cop-out...or a be-all, end-all way out of a slippery slope discussion.

The Truth is, that one must experience the Truth to know about it. And the other Truth is that once one has experienced the Truth, one knows that it cannot be ratified through words.

So, hang up this game and give us something fresh. You're too smart and too good a writer to keep using your talents in this fashion.

As a lover of Sri Adi Shankaracharya, I think you are remiss in thinking that he would be proud of your work here.

 
At 12/27/2005 8:51 PM, Blogger marcy_peanut said...

p.s. the above comment was meant to be read with a hint of jest.

 

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