The discussion has gone in other directions now so it seems this Q&A is finally done.
The start Part 8
Yes, Nisargadatta had a spontaneous awakening with no tradition. He did not see or experience anything of a lead-in. For him it was just a single, clear, and thorough shift. A friend of mine, Takuin, had something similar. From the many dozens of people I’ve spoken with or read about, this is one of 5 styles of that shift.
The error here to me is the assumption that everyone will experience it as I did. Pretty common for teachers actually, especially outside of a tradition. In such circumstance, they also often come to teach techniques to culture the way they experience the world now rather than how to get there. Because they don’t know how it happened. Tolle and Gurdjieff have done the this, for example.
What he says is true for him and also will be true for some others. But not all of it is true for everyone because not everyone experiences the process the same way. I’ve mentioned the puberty example before. Same basic process for everyone, many ways it’s experienced. Human growth and development is not simple.
Keep in mind that because everyone is not on the same path, there is no one teaching that will suit all people. Some have 0 interest in understanding or techniques. If it happens, it happens and fine. Some get advanced degrees exploring what has unfolded for them. There is a whole spectrum of people so there is a whole spectrum of processes and teachings.
I can certainly see the appeal of a simple teaching that can be summarized in a short book and clearly understood. There is great value in that simple clarity. But it’s not how I experienced the process so it holds only mild interest for me.
As a note too, I heard I Am was translated by a western student, not by those close to him. In other words, it’s not an authorized translation.
As a “spiritual consumer”, this is one of the challenges of finding a suitable teaching/teacher. There are a lot of self-declared authorities out there who know only their own experience or who claim expertise they don’t have. Lots of interesting books but many of them pass on standard beliefs rather than closely researched content.
A few are excellent in their niche but because most don’t understand the larger context of the awakening journey, they end up comparing apples and oranges or trying to fit together incompatible things.
But if it makes you feel any better, one of my teachers spent many years seeking a qualified teacher. And he did it all on foot. The Internet brings us a cornucopia of information. But we do need to learn to discriminate. Not just the wheat from the chaff but also a teaching that will support us on our own journey at this time.
Yes, there are many such as you who have been exploring many paths for a long time. It’s extra challenging synthesizing the various perspectives to develop your own world-view. A more difficult way than finding and following a specific path but one that can give you a broader perspective.
I have also been disappointed by how badly some leaders behaved. Nothing violent though, but certainly very questionable. We are however all human and in the surface field of life, are acting out our karma with the related blind spots. It’s a useful lesson in forgiveness and letting go. Also when it’s time to move on.
To me, direct experience is the most important part. And then, a language for that experience is useful. It helps us understand and support what is unfolding and also to support others. We are of course handicapped by a lack of standardized language. Many spiritual terms originate in other times and cultures and are used by different people in different ways. I’ve experimented with terms a little myself.
But if we can find our own clarity and give a language to that, we can communicate to whoever is interested enough.
Keep in mind that how the steps will unfold for you will be a little unique for you. That is at essence why you’re here – a unique experience of the whole. You can never grasp what is yet to be experienced and will thus never have a complete understanding in advance. Your expectations of how it is “supposed” to unfold can also be a barrier to allowing it to unfold.
It’s also a little sign of the ego’s need for control that the mind wants everything clearly defined and organized. For many on the journey, recognizing this “need” is a key step in surrendering the egos control. Not that the ego lets go of the ego. But it is the awareness of this control dynamic that helps us see through the ego and wake up the Self to Itself.
The stages are only ever a map, they are not the territory.
Right – when the mind goes to the effort of understanding, it can become rigid in time, dogmatic. But this is an effect of the mind leaning on its “knowledge”. However the only real knowledge is that gained by direct experience. If someone is on an active spiritual path, experiences develop over time and the mind is often playing catch-up. In other words, the mind is not leading – experience is. What is here & now is. That is the way that will lead you home, not having all the answers.
There is a place on the path when we’re explorers, seeking answers to all the big questions.
For some, they reach a point of frustration when they recognize none of the answers are bringing them any closer to who they are. They abandon that seeking for more direct inquiry. You may call this a method or not. But the essence of this is letting go of all the beliefs of the mind. It is approaching that key moment of surrender that leads to awakening.
Others may come to it a little differently. But the essence of it is a deep letting go, a surrender of the me. The trick though is it’s not something the me does so there is often a dance at this point. Ego trying to keep control and avoid being seen while Self begins to see through. Our prior efforts at doing are all worthless for this change. It is an undoing non-doing.
After the shift, the desire arises to understand what has occurred, so again, there can be an interest in teachers and books, how others understand this new reality. Depends on the person though.
So yeah, abandoning our past seeking is key and there are certainly some teachers who emphasize this point almost entirely. Or at least, that’s what of their teaching is shared.
But it is not the universal prescription for everyone. Just a useful medicine for some at a specific point in the journey.
(this response got lost by the system so only appears here)
It’s important to understand that realizations (shifts in being) are not something you do. They are something you allow, you step out of the way of. They are a change in who you are which also changes how you see the world.
Such changes can sneak up on us gradually. Or they can be sudden and distinct. In the second case, one of the effects is that everything we understood about ourselves and the world can seem to be turned upside down.
Thus, it’s not so much that you “must abandon” as you allowing the process to unfold and the abandoning happens. It’s a consequence, not something done.
If someone has a distinct shift, it’s common for them to be a little dazed for a few days. Awe-struck we could say. For one, it Never meets our concepts of it. And there is often no language while the mind tries to reorient itself.
Then, over time the shift becomes more clear and integrated, we develop language for it, and we go through an evaluation process to see what is still true and what isn’t. This can be a very conscious process or one that simply happens as life is lived.
Note that the life itself has not changed and continues. What changes here is the perceiver. Other changes happen in other stage changes.
Also in this context, when Self Realization takes place, the core concept of a me ends. Because it’s conceptual, associated ideas about self fall away too – either with the shift or soon after. The result is largely a lot less baggage.
On the other hand, someone who has a more gradual shift goes through this more slowly. Then it’s not unlike becoming an adult or other life stage change. Smaller reevaluations.
(Re-asked question with a different context so different answer):
We can see people sit on a kind of spectrum around understanding. Some, such as teachers in the Ramana lineage, take a minimalist approach and discourage concepts. Others like Adyashanti are more middle of the road. Some concepts and more exploring. And some go deeply into understanding and explore lots of conceptual ways of modelling it. And they may reference large traditions of understanding. I sit in the last camp, obviously. This is due mainly to my own history, experiences, and orientation. My blog name is a joke about this.
So yes, the detailed exploration and orientation comes out of this. Some don’t need it. Others value the perspective and coverage of exceptions.
For me, direct experience is the centre of the road. But to understand my own experiences, I had to go exploring historical understanding in multiple traditions.
One doesn’t leave the knowledge behind. And awakening is not something you do. Realizations are something you allow, you step out of the way of. They are a change in who you are which also changes how you see the world.
If that happens suddenly and distinctly, there can be a big falling away of old understanding. Not as something you do but as an effect of the change. If the shift is more gradual, the change happens more over time, as a process of re-evaluation.
And it’s not that anything is ever really lost. The understanding may fall away, but it will tend to arise again, reviewed in the new context of the new stage. If it no longer serves us, then we let it go or replace it with something more suitable.
For example, one can have profound experiences that bring us much understanding. Later, we have a stage change. That experience is now re-evaluated in the context of the new reality. The experience in memory doesn’t change. But our understanding of it shifts over time as the context for the experience changes.
The valid knowledge that serves us does not fall away. The rest is upgraded.
And again it’s not something you have to do to prepare. Awakening is a letting go, a surrender to who you already are.
If people find it useful, 3 teachers met prior to a panel discussion at the Science and Non-Duality conference to review. They ended up having a group discussion. All 3 have different backgrounds and traditions but all subscribe to stages of the development of non-duality I described prior, from their own experience. It’s an audio-only recording of a spontaneous Q&A. They touch on some of the points here.