32. Dialogue With A Spiritual Teacher


Q: I often speak of my own experience, not to brag or because I am that narcissistic, but it is the only experience I can talk about first hand. Others who awaken can have radically different experiences. However, my experiences are similar to those of others I know. I think friends and students/teachers tend to “resonate” in terms of both understanding and spiritual experiences. That is why we like hanging around each other. We share experiences others might call insane. We share loves that others cannot believe in. We share an acceptance of each other’s experiences.

Currently my body and sense of presence feels almost like it is bursting, barely able to contain the inner life force, which, looking within, appears as a brilliant white light and cold heat. Wherever my awareness touches my body I feel bliss. Bliss permeates this body.

And I am singularly aware of myself, as the watcher of the body, the bliss, the Life Force bursting from my chest, and a feeling of incredible power.

A few hours ago, the energy was not quite as intense, but I felt an enormous, overwhelming love and surrender to the forces that be, and to my Beloved.

I feel an overwhelming awareness that I know who and what I am. It is hard to state what that is, because it is all of the above experiences, but it is also a totality that cannot be expressed, and a sense of absolute certitude of who I am, which is not just this aging body so vulnerable to the environment.

I have the utter assurance that I am this Consciousness and as such I have no mass or weight, but the body associated with my knowingness here and now is serving as a capacitor storing the great power of my Life Force. If that cold heat were to turn hot, this body would be incinerated.

I can only describe the entire experience as being totally joyful, even when dark emotions float through without really touching me. And I cannot take my attention off that energy within, the Life Force. It grabs my attention. I cannot let go. At the same time that Force is awakening this body. I can feel it straightening out the muscles, joints and nerves, changing the patterns of movement and sensation. Every few minutes I feel various kinds of snapping in my back that feels like vertebrae, and muscles moving into a new alignment.

All in all, it is a wonderful experience to be having. Another way to describe it is feeling totally alive, 100% alive, and the emotions are outsized too, but I can choose to experience them or not, and then back into the witness, just watching in complete peace. Robert, given our history, what do you make of my experience? I hope you don’t say continued delusion.

A: If you tell me the purpose of your question—in other words, why you want to know what I think — I will try to reply.

Q: I mean the hugely energetic self-awareness I always have with all sorts of subtle body internal energies, bliss, and a rock-solid confidence that I know who and what I am without being able to express it in words. I have no words for it except bliss, energies, a fixation of awareness on “me.” And with it, a solidity, steadfastness.

This is what I call self-realization, and not just emptiness or beingness, or awareness, because the witness/witnessed has a property of explosive self-awareness and security.

A: I meant why do you care what I make of your experience?

Q: I want to convince you that there is more inside you than you think.

I don’t know what your current relationship is with [name withheld]. I rarely talk to her now. She had the same experiences as I, but they mostly went away I think, probably because of your teaching. There was so much more for her potentially. Self-realization is Truth and I push it. I yell it. I announce it. It is beyond anything, any truth or emptiness that I ever felt before. Many of my students, those who are recovering from Advaita, feel love and happiness as emotions move through them again and they feel love.

If I could convince you as a teacher not to be so dogmatically against self-realization that might help many people.

A: Teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin. I understand that you are completely devoted to the role of teacher, but I have no skin in that game. I just express candidly what I see with no reference to such memes as “self-realization,” unless asked about them directly. Unlike you, I have no students, and don’t want any.

I don’t care about so-called “self-realization.” It is not something I think about. Such matters enter my mind only if someone else puts them there, as you are now doing. Self-realization is your religion, your god, not mine. I am not “dogmatically against” it. I am not dogmatically against or for anything.

You say that your students are “recovering from Advaita.” But you are the one who taught it to them. Until your recent love affair with “self-realization,” you were a self-described firm believer in Advaita yourself, and served up plenty of steaming hot non-duality dogma to your students, right? So you are a recovering dogma addict, who was not just personally addicted and misguided, but became a teacher of your addiction, trumpeting non-duality for all you were worth, and making promises you could not keep.

Now, having “seen the light,” you have a new addiction to “push”—as you put it—onto others. The new version still has you in the same role—“pusher/teacher”—but this new addiction of yours is even better than the non-duality one: more “bliss,” more “power.” Probably the irony and foolishness of this story goes right over your head. If I could get you to see it, I would, but since you are always the teacher and never the learner, that seems unlikely.

Regarding your students, I don’t know who they are, and I don’t care. I doubt that many of them know what I have to say anyway, so probably you attribute more influence to me than I really have. Nevertheless, if someone reads my ideas and finds them useful, fine by me, even if that person happens to be a student — a possession, you seem to imagine—of yours. Why should I change anything I say because you are afraid of it, or because, god forbid, one of your students might hear it?

As for the person you mention, that was a different case entirely. She wrote to me directly in distress, misery, and confusion, so I replied to her directly, and in no uncertain terms. For anyone occupying the position of power which you have arrogated to yourself to have sexual relations with a “student,” is outside the realm of mentorship in my view. That the student was married with children and trying to make her marriage work out, only aggravates the matter. If you got off the enlightened master trip for a moment, you would see that.

You asked me not to say that your present experiences are delusions. OK, I won’t say that. I will confine myself to pointing out that you seem terribly worked up and over-excited by what you are calling “bliss,” and “the feeling of incredible power.” Call your latest zealotry whatever you like. You have every right. Jusst know that I have no interest in your experiences or what you make of them, and unlike you, I seek neither bliss, nor power, nor “self-realization.” I seek nothing.

Q2: Good stuff, Robert. Thank you for sharing this. Yes, the end of seeking. Knowing that I lack nothing and that I am complete already, no great experiences are needed, or even desired. It’s entirely sufficient to know that here and now what is, is. Ordinary, not special. Ah, the relief. Thank you.

A: This fellow has been sending me little reports for the past couple of years, attempting to convince me of his “attainment,” and all because I advised his hypnotized disciple/girlfriend to snap out of it. His monomania regarding those events reminds me of the story of the two monks who were returning to the monastery:

It had rained hard, and the road was a patchwork of puddles. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing, unable to cope with a large puddle directly in her path. The elder of the two monks went up to her, and without a word lifted her and carried her across. Then the monks continued on their way to the monastery.

That evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks we are forbidden to touch a woman. Is that not the case?”

The elder monk answered, “Yes, brother.” “But then sir, how is that you lifted and carried that woman on the roadside?”

The elder monk smiled at him and replied, “I left her on the other side of the puddle, brother, but I see that you are still carrying her.”

I love the old Zen tales. Here’s another:

One day Mara, the Evil One, was travelling through the villages of India with his attendants. He saw a man meditating whose face was lit up in wonder. The man had just discovered something beautiful. Mara’s attendant asked what the man had found, and Mara replied, “A piece of truth.”

“Doesn’t this bother you when someone finds a piece of truth, O Evil One?” his attendant asked.

“No,” Mara replied. “Right after this, they make a religion out of it.”

Q3: There is so much talk about self-realization by self-anointed teachers. It occurs to me that a sense of irony may be a prerequisite to some modicum of self-awareness. Truth provides no basis for constructing a business model. Beliefs do. If all you do is teach, you have to find a way to monetize that. The suppliers of beliefs would understandably be chagrined by those like you, Robert, who attack their means of livelihood.

A: Yes, a sense of irony is essential. And a modicum of self-awareness is about all we humans get at best, I’d say. The universe, after all, is quite beyond comprehension. These oh so sincere teachers apparently cannot see the fatuity in asserting that they know “The Truth,” and can teach it to someone.

There’s nothing wrong with earning a living as long as what you’re selling is the real thing. Alan Watts, an early influence of mine, supported himself with lectures and wrote engaging books that people still read. But when the merchandise is unworthy of the buyer’s trust, that’s not business but fraud.

Q4: It’s quite amusing that this person’s claims are so singularly over the top that we all know who it is!

A: Yes, it’s like a joke, but he doesn’t get it. Perhaps he never will.