Andrew Cohen (founder of
Is Enlightenment?) has asked me to say a few words about the main topic
of this issue, namely, being in the world but not of it. And further,
how the "new" spiritual practice of Integral Transformative Practice
relates to this issue. Andrew has some concerns about these issues,
concerns that I share, and I am glad to contribute what I can to this
discussion. Let's start with Integral Transformative Practice (ITP)—what
it is, and more important, what it is not.
The great wisdom traditions generally maintain that reality consists
of at least three major realms: the gross, the subtle, and the causal
(e.g., Nirmamakaya, the Sambhogakaya and the Dharmakaya). The gross realm
is the realm of the material body and the sensory motor world—the world
you can see with your physical senses in the waking state. The subtle
realm is the realm of the mind and its displays, which you can see in
a vivid form in the dream state, in certain states of meditation, and
in (it is said) in the afterlife bardo
realms. All of these are subtle
states of consciousness. The causal realm
is the realm of pure formless
consciousness, unlimited and unbounded, radically free and radically
full. The causal realm is experienced by everybody in deep dreamless
sleep (which is pure formlessness without an object), but it yields
its final secrets only when it is entered with full consciousness, which
happens with certain profound meditative states, various types of satori
or initial awakening and vastly expanded states of boundless consciousness.
the traditions also maintain that, beyond those three great realms and
states, there is a fourth state (turiya),
the state of the ever-present
Witness or pure Self, the great mirror-mind that impartially witnesses
the waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states but is not itself a separate
state: it is the Witness of all those states, and itself neither comes
nor goes. (Technically, there is a fifth state, turiyatita,
occurs when the Witness itself dissolves into everything that is witnessed,
and there is the pure nondual realization of One Taste. For this simple
introduction, I will treat them together as the ever-present nondual
Self or pure Witness.)
waking state comes and goes, but the Witness is ever-present. The dreaming
state comes and goes, but the Witness is ever-present. The deep sleep
state comes and goes, but the Witness is ever-present. Extraordinary
and remarkable states of consciousness can be reached
in the gross, subtle, and causal realms. But the
Witness cannot be attained, because it is ever-present. The Witness
cannot be practiced, because it is ever-present. The Witness cannot
be reached, because it is ever-present. As Sri Ramana Maharshi often
said, "There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached,
it would mean that the Self is not here and now but that it has yet
to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be
impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say
the Self is not reached. You are
the Self;you are already That."
Or the great Zen Master Huang Po, " That there is no reaching enlightenment
is not idle talk, it is the truth. Hard is the meaning of this saying!"
You can no more reach enlightenment or attain the Self than you can
attain your feet or acquire your lungs.
the clouds float by in your awareness, thoughts float by in your mind,
feelings arise in the body, and you are the Witness of all of those.
The Witness is already fully functioning, fully present, fully awake.
The enlightened Self is one hundred percent present in your very perception
of this page. Enlightened Spirit is that which is reading these words
right now: how much closer can you possibly get? Why go out and start
looking for the Looker? The great search for enlightenment is not just
a waste of time; it is a colossal impossibility because the enlightened
Self is ever-present, as the Witness of this and every moment.
is why there is, in strictest truth, no reaching enlightenment, no finding
the Self. And yet, of course, it certainly appears that there are those
who are more awake to this fact than others—we call them "enlightened"—and
in a sense that is true. But what actually happens in these cases is
not the discovery
of enlightenment but a profound recognition
of something that is already present. It is like looking into a store
window and seeing a hazy figure looking at you. You move your head around
until you can see who it is, and with a sudden shock you realize that
it is your own reflection in the window: you are looking at your self.
so with realization or awakening. It appears that you are looking at
the world "out there," which seems very real and very separate
from you, but then suddenly there is the realization—the simple recognition—that
you are simply looking at your Self, and your Self is the entire World
as it is arising moment to moment, right now and right now and right
now. When the world impartially, the world arises in the Witness, and
you and the world are one. You do not see the sky; you are the sky.
You do not hear the birds singing you Witness; you are the birds singing.
You do not feel the earth; you are the earth. All of this comes in a
sudden, spontaneous, uncaused, tacit recognition, the recognition of
nondual One Taste, your very own Self, the Original Face you had before
your parents were born, the Self you had before the universe was born;
this pure, ever-present, nondual Self, spaceless and therefore infinite,
timeless and therefore eternal—and yet it is the only thing you have
ever really known. You already
know that you are you; and that
is, in deepest truth, pure and nondual Spirit.
realization or recognition—which seems
to have a beginning in
time—actually carries one other recognition: there has never been a
time that you did not know the Self. You have always
the deepest center of your awareness—in what Ramana Maharshi called
the I-I (because it is the Witness of the little I or ego—in the deepest
center of your own pure awareness, you have always known that you will
never really die (because the Self is timeless), and you already know
that you have always been here (because the Self is ever-present). You
already know all this, way in the back of your mind. You are perfectly
aware that you are the Witness of this moment. You know that you are
the absolute; you know that you are God; you know that you are Goddess;
you know that you are Spirit, and you know that every sentient being
in the entire Kosmos can make that simple statement: when I abide as
the pure Self, I-I am God. I have always known this; you have always
known this. And you have always known this because the Self is ever-present.
tacit recognition seems to have a beginning in time, until it occurs,
whereupon it becomes clear that it has always been completely obvious.
" This profound realization never began because
it never ended. There is the recognition "I am That," and
the simultaneous recognition that I have always known this. Zen calls
it the gateless gate. On this side of the gate that "separates"
us from enlightenment, the gate seems to be real—until we pass through
it, turn around, and see that it was never really there: thus, gateless
in truth. But it is much simpler than that. You are the Self, you are
the Witness, you know it now, and you have known it always.
ever-present recognition is often called "enlightenment."
It is a simple, profound, irreversible recognition, just like looking
in the window and recognizing
yourself, whereupon you also realize
that it has always been so. A wonderful description of such an awakening
can be found in Andrew's My Master Is My Self
. Simply upon seeing
his Master, Andrew recognized
his own Self—just like that—and
there is only one Self in the entire Kosmos, hence the title.
speaking, this awakening or realization was not caused
It was not caused by his teacher H.W.L. Poonja, not caused by Andrew,
not caused by meditation, not caused by anything—because, in fact, it
is ever-present. You cannot cause something that is already here.
on this side of the gateless gate, there are certain factors that seem
this awakening. Of these, satsang—
sitting in the Presence of those whose realization is brilliant, clear,
and radiant—is probably the most profound. But there are countless other
facilitating factors, including meditation, the many yogas (raja,
jnana, bhakti, karma, kriya, laya
) and—as we will see—ITP. But none
of them can actually cause
you to awaken because the awakened
Self is already ever-present, and you already know it. So when enlightenment
occurs, it almost appears as an "accident." As Baker Roshi
put it, "Enlightenment is an accident. Meditation makes you accident
be told, nobody really understands all the factors that can help facilitate
enlightenment. If they did, we would all be enlightened by now. Moreover,
many of the states taken to be "enlightened" are actually
states of the subtle or causal realm. That is, they are extraordinary
experiences—luminosities, interior sounds, states of formlessness, bliss,
and ecstatic—all have a beginning in time. But the Witness does not
have a beginning in time, because it is ever-present. That which has
a beginning in time is merely finite and temporal; it comes, it stays
a bit, and it goes. But the enlightened Witness does not have a beginning
in time; it is ever-present and you know it is ever-present (you are
aware of the Witness right now, as that which is reading this page).
Enlightenment, in fact, is the only thing that never
it is always
short, you do not become
enlightened; you simply wake up one
morning and confess
that you always already are, and that you
have been playing the great game of hide-and-seek with your Self. And
if that is the game you are playing, then certain "facilitating
factors—from meditation to ITP—can be engaged as part of the game, until
you tire of their worthlessness, grow weary of the great search, admit
the impossibility of becoming enlightened, and realize that you are
already so, abiding then as the timeless Self that you have always been,
smiling with the sudden shock that my Master is my Self, and I have
been looking into the Kosmic window at my own reflection.