Thursday, May 3, 2012

A New Approach to Being Free

First of all let me assure you that I am aware that ‘spirituality’ is as old as time itself, and that there is nothing new under the sun.  Life on earth has gone through many cycles and ages, and only the most recent are included in ‘recorded history.’  By ‘spirituality’ I mean the process of gradually realizing the Truth of one’s eternal Self, and eventually living with that sublime awareness.

Although there is nothing ‘new’ about spirituality, our spiritual life becomes more real and alive for us when we approach it in an entirely new way, or have a new insight or perspective regarding something.  If we don’t do this now and then, our inner life dries up and appears to be meaningless, because we have become stuck in a dead past.  We wonder why we are here and what we are supposed to do.  Or, more commonly, we never even get far enough to formulate those questions.

Spirituality is different from religion.  In true spirituality there is nothing to believe, no dogma, no rights and wrongs.  There are simply things that contribute to the growing awareness of the inner Self and things that hinder it.  Recognizing which is which is known as ‘discrimination.’  This is about the only true criteria we have as far as guidance for living a dharmic life.

We've been programmed and conditioned all our lives to feel that life is about getting better, improving, and becoming someone or something important enough to be significant. My Teacher once told me, 'Never become anyone.' If we don't become anyone in particular, even though we play our appropriate karmic role in this incarnation, there is nothing to improve or get better.  We can simply relax and enjoy the way it is.

Even being asked, 'Who do you think you are, anyway?' is easy to answer if we never become anyone. The answer is that we think we are no one. That is the most freeing feeling in the world.  If I thought I was anyone in particular, it would feel so presumptuous to even be writing this.

Someone wrote something about anger being impossible to stop once it gets going.  I responded that it is true that anger is very difficult to stop when we're in the midst of it, yet we can drop it in an instant if we came to the full awareness of how absurd we're being.  Anger is an absurdity.

When we truly investigate our habitual negative emotions, we see that there is a certain absurdity to all of them.  Sometimes we are like grown-up children having a tantrum, or expressing some negative emotion because we couldn’t get our way about something that doesn’t matter in the least.

In last month’s entry I wrote that even though we could answer a question very well if someone were to ask us, if we make the effort to articulate the question for ourselves, it opens us up to a whole new understanding.

A friend of mine, Scott Marmorstein, a healer and writer, wrote:  'How do you look around yourself and see "one"? What is the reference to 'Oneness' you use?'

I enjoyed Scott’s question and responded, 'Oneness' could just as easily be 'way it is.'  They even sound alike.  The Oneness is simply the way it is.  It already exists before the question 'what is this oneness?' ever arises.  Even the question arises from the Oneness itself, as nothing can be apart from it.

The 6th tattva is the maya tattva, where subject and object are split in two.  Then the Seer experiences itself as different from the seen, and the Knower experiences itself as different from the known.  Before that, the Self exists, whole and complete, without any sense of difference or separation.  Seer and seen, Knower and known, are all One.

So basically the 'Oneness' you ask about is when 'you' and 'I' recognize that we are One and the Same.  It started off that way, long ago, and never changes.  The Oneness was here way before we had any sense of being someone other than the Oneness itself.  In fact, the sense of being someone in particular is only a thought that comes and goes.

I must be more than a thought, says the ego.  I know I am.

A sutra in the Spanda Karikas says: 'One who knows the Self sees the entire world as a series of reflections in a mirror.'  When sustained this makes the most fascinating contemplation.  It leads to the experience of pure Oneness.

In response to another:  You are right in that you are experiencing something that is common to us all, and your description of it was perfect. That feeling of not wanting to do anything about what's causing the suffering, and even wanting to keep the painful or unpleasant samskaras instead of doing what you know to do to be free of them, is tamas guna, and it is very powerful. The three gunas that make up this physical world are the three most powerful forces of nature, and it takes a while to be completely free of them.

They can also be understood as the 3 'moods.' They are a great thing to be patient about, while still moving in the right (most freeing) direction the best we can for now. All we have to do is keep going. We don't have to be perfect yet, even though we already are.

Thanks for having the courage to write about the hard parts of life. A lot of people write to say how well they are doing, or how the course has helped them, and these are also fine comments, but I also like when someone truly reveals their real feelings and experiences, even though they might not necessarily be impressive to others.

Ghayas of Montreal asks, basically, what is the right balance between ambition and gratitude.

Gratitude is essential. It is important to feel a great gratitude for what we have. Many people ignore this in favor of focusing what is wrong or what is bothering them, as though that is a matter of great importance.

Many of us have no idea how much worse it could be.  We sometimes think we do, but we really don’t. Therefore gratitude is of utmost importance. Being thankful for what we have attracts even more of what we are thankful for, and creates the sense of security and being cared for.

Ambition for a better life is much greater than complaining about a hard life, for the latter only attracts an even harder life. Even so, ambition is secondary to gratitude.

There is egotistical ambition, which is fairly harmless unless we become obsessed with it and stop enjoying life as it is because of it, or use it to control or manipulate others.

There is also a certain 'ambition' that comes from within, and comes from the heart. This is tuning into God's plan for us, or the Divine Design of which we play our part.

Look and see where your ambition is coming from. Is it your ego simply wanting something 'better'? Or is it inner guidance that if you listened to you would know your true path in life? 
Sadhana—that Sanskrit word that basically means actively participating in our own spiritual evolution—is not separate from moment-to-moment life. Sadhana is a certain attitude and approach toward the conditions and situations of daily life. It is not something done only at certain times and under certain circumstances.  It is fulltime.

You are right that a Play is going on and that all is not as it appears to be. What you refer to as 'self-effort' is primarily activating will to think the highest thoughts (expanded and free), so as to lead to the highest actions—as thought leads to action, and actions create consequences corresponding to the nature of the thoughts that caused them.

Since I was a teenager I was fascinated by the great siddhas, sages, and saints –the great Masters of all traditions. What has fascinated me the most is that they include some of the most bizarre personalities you can imagine. We cannot apply the usual standards and be able to distinguish the madman from the saint.

Believe me, you don't want a pious spiritual teacher, one who goes around speaking softly and behaving gently all the time.  Nothing could be more deluding. My teachers always shattered my concepts of what great beings are or should be.  If I thought a 'spiritual person' would do one thing, they would do the opposite. I learned I could not define them in ordinary terms.

In order to attain liberation, we need our minds 'blown' quite a bit. We cannot allow our concepts to remain as they are.

If we study the lives of the saints, we discover that, objectively speaking, there is nothing outwardly ‘saintly’ about most of them at all. The only way we know we have come into contact with someone special is our own experience. Something will change. Our inner state might feel suddenly expanded, we might feel inexplicably exalted, more at ease, more cheerful, more real, more like ourselves. It might be a new awareness of joy, or a feeling of falling in love. If nothing is changed, if there is no inner impact, then you know him to be simply another ordinary person.

One of the first and simplest principles I learned was: things are not always as they seem.  I repeat this a lot, because many people think they already understand it, yet they continue to believe that things are as they appear to be.

Someone asked, "Could you paint us a word picture of what life would be like to live as a totally free person? I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to live in total freedom."

You have a hard time imagining what it would be like to live in total freedom because total freedom is being free from the mind, free from imagination.

Nisargadatta Maharaj said:  "There is only imagination. It has absorbed you so completely that you just cannot grasp how far from reality you have wandered. No doubt imagination is richly creative. Universe upon universe are built on it. Yet they are all in space and time, past and future, which just don't exist."

So we can never imagine or expect or anticipate it. If we knew what enlightenment was like we would already be enlightened. What we usually think of as enlightenment is totally off the mark. The mind simply can't grasp the reality of it. One reason for this is that it is simply too simple. The mind does great with complication, but not so well with simplicity. Yet, the highest Truth is simplicity itself.

Paint a word picture? We've already discussed how the highest state cannot be captured in words.  There have been, however, some hints from the scriptures and from enlightened beings to have some idea which direction we are going in. The full exploration of this comes through participation in the Course of Training via email, although even this cannot be comprehended until it is actually experienced, because it does not at first glance even seem rational that it could possibly be true.

One quality of a totally free person is that they are completely spontaneous. There is no thought behind their actions or words, no motive or agenda. It is as though life happens through them for the greatest benefit of everyone around them, but that they, in truth, do nothing.  Grace flows through their words and actions.

Another quality is that they are consistently lighthearted. Only ego can be serious. They might assume another apparent feeling or disposition under certain circumstances; for example, a free being might display anger toward another, yet there is always a twinkle in his eye and his anger is directed toward a particular samskara, or some aspect of conditioned mind and ego, to help burn out the obstacle or block for the one who has come to for guidance.

Another quality of a free being is that he or she remains the same in all circumstances and around all people. He doesn't automatically react to anything, he never becomes defensive, he never explains himself, and he never considers that anything he did or said was a mistake. This could sound to the uninitiated like a huge ego, but he is so identified with God's Divine Energy that he has full faith that only the Shakti acts and speaks through him.

He is fearless. He sees the One in all. He sees the same Consciousness everywhere and in everything. He sees his own Self in everyone who comes before him. He knows we are all the same while we think he is different from us.

Even though the enlightened state cannot be captured in words, we could go on and on listing the qualities of a free being according to various scriptures and other free beings.

An important quality is that such a one is totally non-judgmental. She looks up to nothing, and she looks down at nothing. She lives in a state of equality-consciousness, where everything is completely equal.

She is beyond polarities, or pairs of opposites, like good and bad, or right and wrong. All these are conditioned ways of thinking, and she is free from conditioning in order to be a ‘free being’.

A free being has no likes or dislikes. Everything is the same. He sees God equally in everyone. His primary function in life is to help others see God in themselves.

He is mostly playful, and he sometimes becomes childlike. (Not childish.) He can relate to scholars and dignitaries, yet he remains simple and sometimes apparently naive. He is always true to his own nature, and never considers the dharma of another to be his own.

He might have preferences and inclinations, as these are energies that naturally accompany a human incarnation, but there is no desire, no motive or agenda, and no attachment to the results of his actions. He is free from ego and mind, and puts the disciplined mind to good use for the benefit of all around him. He performs his actions as though they really mattered, while inwardly knowing they don't matter in the least.

More than anything else, and the most concise way of understanding a free being, is that he or she lives in the Truth of the Present Moment.

For information about the Course of Training written by D. R. Butler and available by email, along with a free Lesson 1, write:



stevedav said...

Terrific post Ram. I'm reading lesson 21 and I have a question. Do you have any practical advice on how to "feel" as if something has already happened? I can visualize it fine, but seem incapable of conjuring the corresponding feeling. Thank you!


D. R. Butler said...

Steve, it's actually applying the same principle we unconsciously use all the time--that is, all the ways we think are already real now. Except, if something is of a negative or unpleasant nature, we replace that feeling with something of a positive or pleasure nature. It might take some practice to perfect maintaining the feeling that something not already evident to the senses is real, but with practice it can be mastered. Start off with something small just to see how the principle actually works, and then with greater confidence you can approach something larger.

Make sure you refer to your current lesson as often as possible during the two weeks before the next new lesson arrives. "How Feeling Creates Reality" continues through Lesson 24, or through the completion of the first year of the course, and by then you will have much greater understanding of what you are asking.

Also remember that being in harmony with the way it already is is an even higher principle, and often makes the other principle possible. What we are ultimately aiming for is being in harmony with the way it is, moreso than creating new and improved karma.

Marga said...

Dear Ram,
I just wanted to write in to say thanks for writing this post. You could just as easily sit around and enjoy time away from the computer but you take the time to put this together for us. Thanks!

Kaunteya said...

Thank You!
I love hearing about the Great Beings. It cheers my heart and puts me at peace.

D. R. Butler said...

Marga, I do admit I like some time away from the computer, for various reasons. Even so, communicating with the regular readers of the blog is one of the great pleasures of my life. I have tremendous gratitude that my humble communications have brought me in contact and even close communion with so many great beings.

Scott Marmorstein said...

I read your descriptions of free beings (thanks for the plug, as well) but I didn't see where you wrote about the 'new approach.' Did I miss something? I think I missed something.

Tom said...

I love the Nisargadatta quote!

Cynthia Lynn said...

I read a Facebook post from a friend the other day, and she was expressing how relieved she was that what she dreaded did not in fact take place.

As a youngster, I tended to expect the worst, because somehow I knew it wouldn't happen ... so I really never learned to expect the best, because I figured that definitely wouldn't happen! Perhaps this is why I usually find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook.

Also, I often feel like a hypocrite when I describe how great things are going, because soon after, without fail, I'm experiencing just the opposite ... but like you said in the blog, Ram ... it's really not as bad as it could be, and I am grateful for that, and also grateful because I KNOW the light will shine once again!

D. R. Butler said...

Scott, I hang my hat on saying that there is nothing new under the sun. Perhaps the answer to your question is in this statement: Although there is nothing ‘new’ about spirituality, our spiritual life becomes more real and alive for us when we approach it in an entirely new way, or have a new insight or perspective regarding something.

I mean, how new can things be in a decaying world? I had to come up with some title. It's hard work coming up with a new title every month, lol, and even harder living up to it.

Scott Marmorstein said...

I know exactly how difficult it is to come up with new titles, although I am coming up with them more frequently than that since I'm writing two books at the same time, and sometimes writing a blog. So yeah, I get that.

I thought you were going to give us the answer, but you did what any saint does...puts the responsibility back on each of us to discover what our "new approach" is supposed to be. Thanks! Great post!

kirsty said...

Some of the best things about this conversation is the sense of humour, the lightness and the firm refusal to take things too seriously.

Kaunteya said...

The title makes perfect 'sense' to me and also supports 'freefall' and being in the 'Present Moment'. As Ram writes:
( paraphrase) " Our inner life dries up and becomes meaningless unless we approach it in a new way".
Thank You for getting me to read the title , I get excited with new posts and kinda overlooked it! lol

Michelle Synnestvedt said...

Hi Ram, thanks for the post! It's been awhile and I know you don't like it when I make you "think" LOL but I have some questions.

First of all I loved the quote from Nisargadatta. This brings up something I have been in Wonder about and watching.
I have been watching three "states" lately.
The first is identity- don't think I need to explain this one..the state most of us reside in identified as "someone" -michelle.

The second is when life happens and there is no thinking. There is a background of a kind of stillness that I am aware of even as thoughts pass or feeling arises and subsides, but these thoughts and feelings are like clouds passing and don't hang out..there is no pull to engage with them. The feeling of this state is peaceful, and there is a sense of harmony and disinterest..meaning there is not the same quality of identity where michelle is "taking everything personally, and needs to get thing done."
The third state is impossible to describe, because as soon as I try to describe it, it isn't IT anymore because then is just a memory, because IN that moment, there is NO THING, no world, no one, just VOID, or emptiness. Again, even putting words on it is NOT it, but then again, I need to use form to describe "no form".
The question is this,If I had to "live" in this NO THING, I would not be able to function..I can't talk,or function really, other than breath, because as soon as the need to "function" happens, then there is awareness of a world again even if there is no thought..but that second state is where engagement is language interaction ect.
That NO THING-ness seems to be the PRESENT or Awareness and yet, I can't and do not want to "stay" there. I watch a pulsation, a moving in and out of these three states. Once I am aware of "the world" again it is the past because form is then "named" on some level.

So, what do you mean when you say live In the present moment? I can't function in what I would call the "Real Present" I can only function in the first and second state where there is an engagement with the "past" or "the dream"ie- the world.

love some one/ No One :)

Tara said...

Morning Ram and all...what came to mind as i read the blog is what a river of troubles "my" life seems to be...elderly in own parents have already crossed over, scary health concerns with my grown children and issues myself, always coming up with the rent and health insurance payments...on an on...then as i tune into the love that i pray to in my heart that river turns to a rainbow, healing and comforting all that comes to it...i love watching Beings dipping into it and turning just the colors that they need...seems the blog and my Lessons are like that for me. An old poster that has hung on my bedroom wall for years and years says..
"Live each present moment completely and the future will take care of itself. Fully enjoy the wonder and beauty of each instant."
~Paramahansa Yogananda
Love and rainbow light to all...Tara

Julian C. said...

What a wonderful post, Ram, thank you! I made it a point of reading it early in the month, for a change, and reading the comments made thus far. I could have spent this time doing something else, but it was well worth my time. I have finally seen the blog as a great complement to the Course of Training.

As you say, none of this is new under the sun, but this approach to life is helping me face the everyday challenges in such a better way. My "yoga practice" has definitely deepened since I started the Course, even if I hardly ever unroll my mat these days. Thank you, Ram, for inviting me to join last summer.

Kaunteya said...

" is simply too simple."
Love it!
I was brought up believing and training a complicated mind. I was proud of big words and multitasking. Arguing was a way of showing off and impressing. "Look how intelligent I am!"
Wow! There has been quite a shift: why argue? why show off? to who?
Thank You.
Love to All
I really appreciate everyOne's sharing ...

rico said...

Great question Michelle. I suspect everyone would have a slightly different take on your question. Here is my perspective. Based on your description I'd say probably the 2nd and definitely the 3rd states you describe so eloquently would be living in the the Moment. As long as the thoughts just slide on by, as long as they have no hooks then there is nothing in the way of experiencing what is. Of course when there are no thoughts there is a sense of what the Tibetans describe as Rigpa, "Awareness vast like the cloudless sky". This state is similar to (perhaps is the same as)your 3rd in that there are no words that can do it justice.

You seem to imply that acting without thought is not possible. I would say that acting without thinking that you are doing it is probably the most effective action. Of course functioning in the world often does require some thinking. The trick is to avoid getting hooked into believing there is some separate me who is doing it.

So the only time we fall out of the moment is when those pesky thoughts hook us in to believing they are worth identifying with. When we focus on the space between the thoughts the Moment is self evident. Eventually that space can become quite large until it becomes the thoughts between 2 spaces.

Debbra said...

Ram, I love May's entry and thank you to Scott for pointing to the title, "A New Approach to Being Free", as it contains everything. Almost like a Zen koan (although not really asking a question); if I contemplate it though, it contains the question and the answer.

Regarding seeing the Oneness in everything, the statement that it could just as easily be 'the way it is' somehow very satisfying.
Sometimes I experience the Oneness by an intuitive feeling of connection. On just a purely physical level, we are in a single matrix here, and there is nothing we are not connected to. That is, between me and whatever 'I' perceive with my senses there are molecules of air as well as physical forces touching and connecting 'me' to the thing I am perceiving, and that thing is connected in the same way to everything else. All one, multi-dimensional continuum with no separation anywhere! All creatures and things 'bonded' in a sea of existence. No separation, except in the mind and imagination..if I allow myself to believe the 'series of reflections in a mirror' to be other than my own Self. Thinking of Oneness in this way often helps me to come back to the simple truth, and to see it again as new.

Thank you Ram, for this great entry. I look forward to the insights and comments to come. Even made a copy of it to carry around with my current Lesson! Love to all.

Michelle Synnestvedt said...

Hey Rico, thanks for your reply,
the reason I articulated the 3 different states was so that I could share my direct experience of what is happening for me.
There is a big difference between state 2 and state 3.
The difference is that in state 2 there are thoughts, feelings sensations, perceptions, as well as forms seen with the eyes and all the senses are active and the world is there and "michelle's" body is there as well but none of these forms, have any more importance than anything is a passing show..there is a "disinterest"in any one thing, or you could say an equanimity.
State 3 does NOT have thoughts passing by like clouds or forms, or the world or the body, it is NO THING..the void..and I MEAN EMPTY. There is no one and nothing there to even recognize "you" were in the Void until after the fact when stage 2 "arises" again and you try to describe it. But by then IT is no longer the VOID it is the past that now has a form.
So for me in this VOID, I am saying I can not engage. speak, act (other than breath/ digest ect)
I hope the difference between these is now more clear.
I am looking for feedback from direct experience, not some answer from a book, although books are nice, I'm not looking for ideology.
Hey Ram, or Rico or anyone, have you had this experience? Is the "present moment" we are trying to connect with stage 2 or do people LIVE in this NO experience is there is a flow of all of these states like waves.

D. R. Butler said...

Okay, Michelle, I've read your comments a couple of times now, and I think (see, you've again got me 'thinking') I might have some grasp on what you are asking.

I believe I can speak from experience regarding all these states. I understand what you mean by Identity, and the level of watching thoughts and actions happen, and the level of No-thing, or No-mind, where there is just void. Of course, there must also be a Witness of the void.

It is largely a matter of working with different levels simultaneously. Say the bottom 3rd of the mountain is Identity, and that's where we live our ordinary life and all that most people know about. The middle 3rd would be the state of watching thoughts and actions occur, without identification with them. The top 3rd of the mountain is simply Being, pure Consciousness, total Awareness yet ultimately also nothingness--a curious paradox.

Still, most essentially, all three 3rds of the mountain have to exist in order for there to be a mountain. They all happen simultaneously, making a single whole.

All division and differentiation exists simply so that the mind can more clearly understand the ways things work. They are temporary waves, and they will soon merge into the endless ocean, although they arose from the ocean in the first place.

The 2nd state is very interesting. I started consciously observing this one when I would be in conversation with someone and I would note that I was not really participating in the conversation. I could only observe it. It was so far out that I had no more a sense of identity for 'myself' than the other person. We were simply two parts of the same play.

The present moment, as you say, is beyond all ideology. There is no dogma, no facts, nothing to be described or defined. There is simply the Awareness of Being. The Void is Being. There must be an Awareness of the Void. It is the undefined, undifferentiated, unconditioned, formless Awareness of Being, which is our true eternal nature, and which is eternally changeless.

Anonymous said...

The 3rd state is the Samhadi state. Yogis classically close their eyes and stay in this state for lengths of time The distinction that Baba made so well is that a Siddha attains Natural Samhadi, or the open eyed Samhadi where she can still be in the highest state while still appearing to be participating in the world.

Michelle Synnestvedt said...

Praise the Goddess! Thank you Ram, your description and experience is VERY helpful!!!

Kaunteyananda said...

seems to be a subtle distinction between the middle and 'top' of the mountain. can you clarify the 'difference'?

Marga said...

I love your question to Ram. And I love Ram's and Rico's answers. I have a "thought" for you. My thought for you would be addressing how you say you cannot live in the 3rd state you describe because you wouldn't be able to function; that it is not possible to be aware of objects of perception and function in this void - "Once I am aware of 'the world' again it is the past because form is then 'named' on some level."

So here's my thought: Can you use the same disinterest of the 2nd state you describe to let yourself rest/disappear in the void of the present moment rather than being drawn into the names of things? As senses still function? I'm truly curious. I'm not saying this is an answer to your question. I'm exploring this with you.

Yesterday I had an interesting experience. I've begun rowing out here in Oregon and yesterday morning I was out on the lake in a quad, sculling with three other people in the boat. We are learning how to row and the coach was giving us instructions. At some point, everything went sort of blank - I was hearing the instructions, seeing the whole scene, (like in the 2nd state you describe) and my body was responding to the instructions, but at the same time, it was all empty - a pure, vast Nothing. Formlessness in Form. (Like your 3rd state you describe, but with Form - as if Consciousness in this body were learning something new, like swimming underwater with eyes open...)

I noticed later, after I was trying to get back into that state ;) that while that Nothing was foreground, there was no naming, or judging, or having even the slightest sense of what needed to happen.

So, I'm right there with you, in this question about Nothing.

Brent Flickinger said...

Ram, I love your descriptions of a free being. One of my most memorable experiences (from the past, but alive now when I remember it) was standing in front of my Guru who looked in my eyes and asked, with great compassion, how it was going, knowing we were experiencing a very challenging, sad, and stressful time in life. As I looked in her eyes I saw them dancing with delight and joy. I had a direct experience of a Great Being being appropriate in the moment yet I could see that Her true state was one of constant joy. I often recall that experience when things seem to be so heavy or important. Talk about gratitude! I'm grateful for the many, many small, daily things I experience AND to have the privilege of getting a glimpse of a Great Being's state like that is such an amazing blessing.

Cristina Santeiro said...

In my experience, when I experience the third state that Michelle describes (as in formal meditation) it enlivens the second stage, which is more normally experienced outside of formal meditation, but which is a sort of meditative state as well. I loved the way Ram described it as a mountain and the 3 states are temporary waves. I strive for the highest, which is the third state, but which is difficult to hold on to, and from that experience I am elevated so I can more readily experience the second stage. When I can experience the second stage, I am in a very good state. If I can be in the moment, even though experiencing the senses, it's all good.

rico said...

Why call it anything

When naming stops

The door to the infinite opens

Scott Marmorstein said...

Hi Marga,

I thought I would respond to your question to Michelle. I understand why you might ask this. You say: "Can you use the same disinterest of the 2nd state you describe to let yourself rest/disappear in the void of the present moment rather than being drawn into the names of things? As senses still function?"

The 3rd state Michelle describes is beyond recognition of anything at all--the world is gone, thoughts are gone, notion of identity is gone. There isn't someone "home" at that time for which to make the body/mind function..if there is someone there, it's what we call the 2nd state. In NO THING, that is exactly what it means--it is Mahashunya. There is no merging the 2nd and 3rd States described by Michelle and Ramji.

Michelle was seeking clarification from someone who actually abides in that 3rd state from time to time and who could (I believe) give some confirmation/affirmation. I see this as a very 'intellectual' enterprise: mix and match States of Consciousness. It's like someone else I know who says "Infatuation with Innovation". In the 3rd State there is nothing to change or innovate--there's nothing there to change. As Ram pointed out, there is a very refined and subtle state of Awareness that let's you know about it when you're back in 1st or 2nd state.

Michelle Synnestvedt said...

Hi Marga,
Thanks Scott.
All I can say is when I am in the void..that is all that it is..empty..if I HAD to liken it to something I would say it may be like dreamless deep sleep where the only way you have any idea that you were in dreamless sleep is AFTER the fact..meaning after you wake up.
Awareness tells you there was No-thing, there is NO mind. There are no senses, I think I said that you are digesting and breathing..beyond that no "senses" are being once you "hear voices" meaning you "understand" someone saying something to are no longer in emptiness,because mind kicks in again, even though "you" are not there in normal identity,you are in the second state. So there is "no intention" or "resting in" or will for that matter, or someone to just be "ok" with anything and there is no "getting back " into a state that IS.
When I see pictures of Kali standing on Shivas corpse, there is something about Shiva that is familiar with this state.
The experience you described is what I experience in the second state.
So far Ram has articulated well what I am pointing at as that is all I can do..point, because the third state can not be defined, but I have been told to articulate things so..I am beginning to really appreciate 'Neti Neti', it's as if the only way to point to THAT is in the negative.
Awarenss is that which "illumines the void" I remember Baba Muktananda saying that, and now that statement is more than just ideology or words.
More later....

Naganath said...

What I learned from my latest Lesson (Lesson 41, Vol. 2): The third state you refer to is Perfection and any function that "happens" from that state (whether words, actions, etc.) is also Perfect and is purely spontaneous. Free fall yoga is letting it all go and just Being Perfect in the Moment. Once that state is achieved there is nothing else to do anyway because nothing happens; One just delights in One's game--the second state. So, have fun in the first state! (Dr. Butler can bring this diatribe to fruition.)

Marga said...

Ok, I hear you, Michelle and Scott.

Scott Marmorstein said...


Would you speak to this phenomena that I am perceiving lately? It has been a challenge for me to get a good articulation of it.

But here goes:

Lately, wherever I look in my community--indeed even on Facebook it seems--seem to be spreading further away from each other. There is a feeling about this that is disconnected. I have searched and inquired deeply to see if I am the one moving away from others, and if I am the one who is disconnected. I am clear that I am not disconnecting from people or my community. However, I hear from people directly, and I get second-hand hearsay of people who truly feel disconnected and in some cases disoriented.

I have taken this a little further than just what's local to me here. I have extended my view out quite a bit to see what is going on. It's kind of like the feeling "where the heck is everyone?" keeps popping up. I feel the connections I have with people on a personal level are getting stretched thin.

I know that on one level you can say "there's no one else out there like that" but...I'm not speaking to that level. I'm directing attention to the very human level. Perhaps--and this might just be it, but I don't know--it has something to do with my having gone to India where community isn't just a 9 letter word, but were people actually get together frequently droves. Still, I'm hesitant to say this is mere 'culture shock' as what I'm noticing feels much deeper than that.

There is an extraordinary sense of disconnect that keeps showing up. So, I wanted to address it. I thought I'd ask you. But of course, I encourage anyone to respond. It could be a sly attempt on my part to get people talking, connecting, and thinking about this. It's important, or so I feel. And not in a 'serious' sort of way. It's important in the same way that being able to feel your own hands and fingers when they touch things is important. You can live without it, but it's nicer to have the sensation.

Much love,

Chris Griffin said...

I share Uddhava's question. It is a great one and relevant to me and my community as well.

My own initial reflection, regarding community, is that we should let go of our ideas of what community is.

In a very real way, community is the set of people that we work, play and interact with in a day-to-day way. If we had a certain group of people that we did this with "back in the day", the fact that we're now interacting with a different set of people perhaps means that our community has transformed in a sense, but has not gone away.

I would love to hear Ram's perspective on this, as I know he's seen that happen in his life in a big way

Sukala C. Boyd said...

Scott, I often feel disconnected and over these 2 years of taking part in the Course, this feeling is being transformed. This year I committed to personal responsibility beginning with personal boundary work. The course has helped me by raising Q's around blaming and making others wrong, to name just two areas. I've found how true it is that I get what I give out and when I do (those two things)that to others, even mentally, I feel, even if it isn't actually happening, that they are doing it to me. Similarly, when I feel disconnected,it's time for me to check in. e.g. what are my expectations of other? what have I given, recently? what might others be going through? And the biggy, for me, how am I connecting at the subtle level? I hope you don't mind me sharing my journey here, whether or not it adds anything to your observation, feelings, and experience.

With love

ari said...

Hi Scott:
love your blog on India. Made me feel like I was there on some level with you and brough back great memories from my trip 9 years ago.

I read your post a couple of times to get a real feel for what you were trying to convey.

My feeling on that from a personal perspective is facebook, twitter and the whole information highway is information overload for me. I've distanced myself not so much from the people on it but from the technology itself. It's a great way to communicate but at times it feels like there's so much on there even from a spiritual perspective I want to back away. I want to back away to spend time alone. To meditate.

I know it's a way you connect to make a living. But for me my livelihood and my family provide a lot of tapasya and my anitdote is too back off. It's never been a place I felt as connected anyway as I do in seeing someone face to face and interacting that way. There are nuances that cant be replicated from real life experiences togeather.

With technology there is less and less of that. I cant imagine how young people will evolve from all this. should be an interesting ride:)

Kaunteya said...

Scott, the first I came back from India I had culture shock.
I had been trained beforehand - but that was re feeling culture shock there...
India felt 'right' and made 'sense'.
Here did not.
But here we are, lol

D. R. Butler said...

Scott/Uddhava, I have been contemplating your question ever since you posted it, and have read what others have to say.

There does seem to be something going on right now that initiates a sense of disconnect. It doesn't seem to affect the subtle realm, as in my dreams every night I am with huge throngs of people. And there is no disconnect among the subtle entities; we all obviously share the same Heart.

There are a lot of new vibrations hitting the planet right now, and certain changes are happening in personal consciousness that happens with or without our okay. We don't get a vote. We simply do our best to flow with it and allow it to open us up to something greater than we have outwardly been.

We share a common community with those others in all parts of the world who participate in our Course of Training, and the blog and Facebook are two ways we have to gather together and interact in a subtle way. Yet it is also a very powerful way of relating and staying in touch.

You are expanding your own communication through your extraordinary connection to Baba Rampuri and the Naga Babas. It is possible to receive and even pass on the grace and blessings of more than one lineage, and there is great spiritual power in each.

Externally, karmically, all sorts of things happen, and appear to happen, and later don't happen or even appear to happen. People come and go. There are people who came into my life 30 or 40 years ago, and we still enjoy a close connection. Others I meet and immediately feel the connection, and it is there right from the beginning. This happpened to us online, even though I knew you previously as a person.

The subtle community will always be strong. It even exists between incarnations. Only a small percentage of our community are even incarnated. So much of it is experienced in the dream state, and only a fraction of it manifests as physical karma.

Physical karma changes, the nature of personal relationships changes, yet we all remain together in a way that in inseparable and indivisible.

We are One; we all share the same Being, the same Consciousness, the same Self, the same 'I'. There in no one else for anyone to be.

Physical communities come and go in cycles. Sometimes we seem to lose contact with everyone, such as I did for 6 years between 2002 and 2008. Then somehow, magically, we come back together again, and it feels like no time has passed since we were last together.

This is what comes up for me. If there is anything more specific you want me to touch on, we can give it a go:)

Kaunteya said...

"Only a small percentage of our community are even incarnated. So much of it is experienced in the dream state"
This makes me want to cry ...
I seem to have no awareness of the subtle realms. I also seem to have very limited awareness of anything in the dream state.
Seems disconnected fits me.

Ram - How can I connect to the subtle ???

Scott Marmorstein said...

Thanks to everyone. Thank you very much, Ram for your response. I feel lucky to have such questions addressed and answered from your perspective.

I really just wanted to be sure I wasn't seeing something that wasn't even there in the first place. Glad to know other people experience it as well.

Please know I am addressing the very relative level of existence that we all share. The subtle realm is something for everyone to perceive in their own way and to appreciate from their particular perch.

Karen Jo Shapiro said...


My experience is that the more I take the course (I am in the beginning of vol 2) and the more I read Ram's writings in the blog and his FB page (as well as comments from the community) the more I begin to get in touch with the subtle world.

It is like a gradual (for me, very gradual) awakening. I certainly feel a sense of peace and comfort now, a "knowing" it exists even if my awareness or understanding of it still feels in early stages. I believe if you keep on with the course, you will get to know all kinds of things that seem inaccessible now. It's a Great Energy we are blessed with here

Karen Jo.

Julian C. said...

I just got caught up on the most recent comments. Some of the topics brought up felt arcane to me although I could follow what was expressed on an intellectual level. What most got my attention was Scott's comments about feeling disconnected, perhaps because I am feeling this way at this moment. My humble opinion is that trying to understand some things on an intellectual level only gets you (or at least me) so far. Emotions, as passing as they might be, seem to be much more valuable. Of the course the higher ones, such as love, are like doorways to wonderful experiences, but the unpleasant ones, such as boredom, are just as much a part of our humanity. I have sometimes had the privilege of experiencing wonderful states of being which words could never adequately describe. As far as community is concerned, everyone I encounter in my everyday walk of life is a part of it, not just a special few. And yes, life does seem to be richer, for better or for worse, in those parts of the world where people still live in close physical communities and actually talk to those around them, places such as India.

Kaunteya said...

Happy Mother's Day Mother!!!
You have passed onto the subtle realms
You were so loving, wise, funny, accepting, giving ... Thank You Mother!!!

Taylor said...

I can relate, KJ. I’m much more light-hearted since beginning the Course. And, if I’m feeling light-hearted, then I must be in good touch with the subtle realm!

From Volume 2.19, “It is very important that we develop the capacity to remain detached from any particular polarity. If we are attached to a polarity, we will also have to deal to an equal degree with its opposite.”

I suppose that this means if one were to live as English aristocracy and become attached to that lifestyle – fine dining, fine music, fine leisure activities, etc. Then, watch out! – next up, comes the dregs.

I’m beginning to get a good understanding and appreciation for the value of yogic practice and the true joke of this play!!! The real royalty are the ones who know the Truth and live true raja lives.

thanks & love.

Jane said...

I love this blog entry and all the questions/comments. Interesting that when I first read the blog entry my mind was chirping along..and then reading the questions/comments (especially for the 2nd time), the mind went to a much deeper quieter place. I've been thinking about my Mom (as it is Mother's Day today in the States) and observing how the grief has been transformed over the past couple of years. First, it was hard to let go of not both being on the physical plane. Then there was the experience that we are together on the subtle plane. Now when I think about her, what comes up is..there is no one to miss, we are one. It's not that the grieving process is complete for this lifetime but the comfort I've gained is immeasurable.

I especially appreciated Scott and Michele's questions as they pulled me out of my comfort zone into new territory. Ram's response, in conjunction with his reposting about the subtle world, is so reassuring. I've felt increasing connection to the subtle world and less to the physical world while at the same time knowing that my dharma and karma are to be "living in the truth of the present moment' on the physical level simultaneously.

With infinite love and gratitude and Happy Mother's Day to all nurturing souls...

Dave Silverstein said...

I'm experiencing that this is indeed the 'perfect' time to comment. It could never be otherwise. Lately, I've been feeling divinely guided in my life's direction. I work with a number of Seniors with life threatening diseases and I have never been happier just 'being' with them. It's really just doing what needs to be done in that moment and knowing it is completely right. I don't need to control or have any answers. There is no need to make a difference.

I get to practice the art of being kind, patient and grateful to these wonderful human beings. I'm not trying to be anyone in particular. There is just this deep love for everyone that is presenting me with so many gifts that I am so grateful for.

In the blog Ram, you speak of how our spiritual life becomes more real and alive when we have a new perspective or insight. I am experiencing just that. The simplicity is absolutely amazing. 'Never become anyone'. This IS my life...such a blessing.

Debbra said...

In the blog entry there is this quote by Nisargadatta Maharaj:

"There is only imagination. It has absorbed you so completely that you just cannot grasp how far from reality you have wandered. No doubt imagination is richly creative. Universe upon universe are built on it. Yet they are all in space and time, past and future, which just don't exist."

This is mind-stopping! So it's not a matter of finding our way back to reality. That's not possible since we have wandered farther into the dream than we can even grasp. It's about waking up! Ah-ha.. glimpsing the simplicity of it, it's so empty, it's the free-falling! Funny how the mind just doesn't want to fathom the simplicity. And thankfully we don't have to depend on the mind to figure it all out! LOL

kirsty said...

I am really relating to Dave's comments. Involved with hospice, I have worked with dying people for over 20 years. It is an enormous privilege to be with the dying at this critical time and it is such a rare opportunity to learn from them. Some are accepting and some are not, some are graceful and some fight to the end. BUT, it is always obvious how easily and kindly the spirit leaves the body. All these souls have been teachers in the true sense and I am so grateful for the privilege of being being with them at this moment for which we were born.

Sukala C Boyd said...

I love the connection here between feeling disconnected and finding connectedness in the subtle realm. My main task in this life, other than learning how to be at ease at all times, seems to be learning how to connect. I'm finding the course is guiding me perfectly, e.g. current lesson Vol 2/15 on relationships. Letting people be themselves has and will continue to require me being myself.
Dave, I valued my previous work with people close to death, how they are immersed in the subtle realm. I'd like to do that again soon. Meanwhile, dreams are vivid and one thing I find interesting is recognizing 'me' in my typical dreams - same issues, same likes, same problem-solving skills. I really enjoy my dreams and I believe, having read Ram's words above, that these dream people are the community. Very cool perspective.

With love,

Naganath said...

At the last workshop of D.R.'s I attended in Atlanta some years ago (towards the end of his seva), I began to experience the certainty of my death--to occur in the next week or so. I was grieving the loss of family and friends in meditation at the workshop after D.R. had 'abruptly' began sharing about a lady on the course who had died in a plane crash--she was on the lesson on death when she passed. The feeling of imminent death did not pass for weeks and only faded. (It came back with a vengenece when I contracted Lyme.) I have experienced many 'deaths ' in this life but not my own (so far) I don't believe. Of course, I could be dreaming that I am still alive and that would be somewhat the same as thinking I am still alive in this illusion we call life when in reality I could have dropped the body long ago, but I digress... What are these FEELINGS of impending death? They were so strong I was certain I was going to die soon. It was like a strong premonition that remains unfulfilled (so far). It certainly gave me a new perspective. Much gratitude for that gift and a very amazing workshop.

D. R. Butler said...

Naganath, we're all going to die very soon. Your feels are neither unusual or unrealistic. A human lifespan is not very long in the grand scheme of things. Do you remember the old Eagles' song, 'I'm already gone'? That's the way I approach this. I'm already gone and I'm just watching to see how the karmic movie ends.

Julian C. said...

I find it funny that I thought I was now catching up on the latest comments when I realized I was reading some of the earlier ones for a second time, but this time in more about seeing something new each time you read something. I was in the midst of one of my own egotistical melodramas when I initially read some of these earlier comments, right before my 05/13/12 comment. This is partially why I was feeling "disconnected" from this discussion at the time.

It's interesting to me that I was just thinking about dreamless sleep when I came across Michelle's reference to this in one of her comments. I remember having experienced what I believe was this dreamless sleep once some years ago. I remember being surrounded by utter darkness, silence, nothingness. I felt such joy just lying in That, and I woke up feeling happy, rested and refreshed to a degree that I rarely do. I would venture to say that this is that "3rd state" which Michelle tried to describe. This is certainly what I have believed all these years.

I like what Ram says about the Witness of the Void and Awareness of Being. Perhaps this is the closest one can ever come to the original state of the Void or Being, before he emergence of a Witness, before there was a Second. I also remember reading in the Tao Te Ching that if the Tao can be named, then it is not the Tao.

Scott Marmorstein said...

To comment to Ram and Naganath about death.

I have died numerous times "in this body" in the dream state since I moved to PA. Very vivid dreams of death. Often at the end of my life in these dream/visions (they are all different ways of dying--hail storm, car accident, another heart attack, and on and on) I hear the mantra being repeated.

In this body *not in the dream state* many people on this blog know I was dying. But I had died literally to the world which is why they had to use the crash cart on me and paddle me back to life. After dying so much, I don't think another death is all that big a deal. Ram is right. Compared to a mountain our time here is as nothing. But sometimes it feels oh so long.

Naganath said...

Yes, so true. My friends and family would probably agree that "I am already gone." Just peeking in to see how the karma plays out. So much love...

Al said...

In a way we die every time our mind stops. And we are born again when it fires up again.

Death is so freeing really!!

That being said, I have read about a group of ancient Lemurians that are still around (60000 years old and counting). They supposedly figured out how to not die, and how to rejuvenate the body every so often. That being said I have never met one! But the story is intriguing..

Vicki said...

I really appreciate your description of the great beings and the state of ease in which they live.

In my last lesson on Priorities, Ram, you write about having once made it your intent for a year to just be at ease. In doing so, you say, "I began to relax to a degree I could never have anticipated, merely by consciously maintaining the intent to be at ease. I was surprised to see how much lighter and more flowing I became. Situations that might have previously freaked me out would come up, and once I remembered my priority to remain at ease no matter what, I could now approach them from a calm and poised perspective. Life became easier and more enjoyable."

These words spoke to me and I thought, "What a super Intention. Just to be at ease. Simple and uncomplicated. I could do this. I could make this MY Intention for a year and see what comes up." The next day, the first time an annoyance came up the words "Be at ease" came spontaneously. Very cool! It happened again later in the day, too.  I can see how this Intention, this 'Be at ease' priority, covers just about everything else that arises, and returns me to the heart and the Present Moment. 

The "Be At Ease" mantra has continued to arise for me on several occasions each day, sometimes spontaneously showing me where and when  I'm NOT at ease. Then my breath relaxes, I relax, and "I'm back".  Having completed a year of creating how I'd like my life to look, and enjoying and marvelling at the real payback from that effort and Intention, I look forward to the results of another year of focused Intention, knowing that the Shakti will find unexpected and delightful ways to lead me forward on my journey to the state of Ease.

Kaunteya said...

A beautiful sharing Victoria , thank you!
I have been following several intentions but 'be at ease' trims off the fat and puts it together for me
... hey, it's a sneak use of that future Lesson Ram and Kay will send me! Lol

Marisa said...

Hi Ram! I am on lesson 22 and have a question. You said that it is unnecessary to create something over and over because, "Once we SEE and FEEL it, it already IS a subtle reality. Once it has been created subtly, it is only a matter of TIME before it will manifest physically." That's awesome from a vantage of positive creation, but what if I have SEEN and FELT something that I do not want? There is a particular scenario that reoccurs to my mind that I have continually just looked away from…basically ignored….trying not to give it any more attention than it was already stealing. If I replace these thoughts with those that are positive, does that erase the effects of the previous ones that I have undoubtedly felt but just tried to ignore or is it absolutely just a "matter of time?" Thanks

Tony (Aditya) said...

A brief slice of history:

I used to ask for boons. I knew what I needed and I asked for it.

Then I was no longer sure what I needed, so I asked for grace. I knew if I asked it would come.

One day, asking for grace, I stopped in mid-thought. I literally couldn't go on. It seemed so ridiculous -- all the grace I could possibly need had already been provided, along with inner guidance and teachings about what it was for.

Now, asking for grace seems like standing neck-deep in a crystal-clear lake and praying for a drink of water.

Chris Griffin said...

Dear Ram, the lessons often talk about how we live in our thoughts, therefore we should make them as beautiful and positively constructive as possible.

After fighting with that teaching for a while, I'm 100% on board with keeping positive and seeing the best.

But I'm wondering if it's really true that we live in our thoughts. It seems evident to me that I live in my awareness. There is my awareness and my knowing, in which I experience myself and my connection to the world. Sometimes the thoughts seem like an interesting (or uninteresting) sideshow to the Awareness of Being.

So is it possible that we can be in a place where we don't live in our thoughts, where our thoughts are just another thing that go on within the realm of our awareness that we don't necessarily have to identify with?

Dave Silverstein said...

Ram, you mention one of the qualities of a totally free person is that they are completely spontaneous. "There is no thought behind their actions or words, no motive or agenda.... Grace flows through their words and actions".

Most of the time when I'm 'spontaneous' in word, it's due to my mind's quick reactions to something that is said to me. I find myself 'censoring' a lot of what I initially want to communicate (fear of 'hurting' someone or saying something that I may regret.) Maybe, at times for the right reasons but usually not.

It makes sense to me that true spontaneity would be difficult especially when I'm feeling serious. When I've been very lighthearted and happy, words flow out like water and it seems there is a perfection in every syllable, ...just some observations for me to contemplate further.

D. R. Butler said...

Marisa, your question is both simple and complex. Actually, Truth is simplicity itself, but because the mind complicates things, they appear to be complex.

Everything you believe to be real and true in your world presently corresponds to what you see and feel. Most people think they see and feel something because of the way it already is, through its own independent power. However this is backwwards thinking. When we see and feel something, it comes into being as a reality for us.

The great thing about the power of free will is that if something hasn't already manifested, we can change the way we see and feel about it, and therefore transform the results or consequences before they manifest. That is, we can modify karma that hasn't already come to fruition.

In the course we explore the various types of karma. One type is the way things have already physically manifested. Another is something that will manifest physically unless we change our perspective and beliefs about it. A third kind of karma is that which has hardly taken seed form yet as we are just beginning to think in ways that will eventually create it into being unless we change our ways of thinking. This way we can nip it in the bud.

We can't do anything about what is already here except be in harmony with it. Coming into harmony with the way things are is a major aspect of sadhana, and often the longer we refuse to be in harmony with it, the worse it gets.

D. R. Butler said...

Chris Griffin, the way you have worded it, 'we can be in a place where we don't live in our thoughts, where our thoughts are just another thing that go on within the realm of our awareness that we don't necessarily have to identify with,' is the way it actually is. Our thoughts are our connection to the outer world, so only in regards to the outer world and other people do we actually live in our thoughts.

Otherwise, as you said, we are simply witnessing the mind, being aware of thoughts. Awareness, knowledge, and thinking are three different levels of Being. That is, we are aware that we know what we think.

D. R. Butler said...

Dave, true spontaneity happens when we are lighthearted and happy. When we live in this state, we are spontaneously appropriate to every situation.

When we're 'spontaneous' when we're serious, it is more likely to be a 'spontaneous' expression of ego, or a samskara (conditioned ways of thinking, acting, and reacting.) That's when we can look back later and see that we were not coming from our true Self, but from a programmed and automatic way of expressing or reacting to something.

Marisa said...

Dear Ram,

I have another question as I continue to ponder lesson 22. In it you describe intense emotions as "astral weather" and teach us to learn to just observe these feelings without identifying with them or relating them to anything in particular and then "they" would stop coming around once they see that they have lost their power over me.

I know that this is a weird question, but where did "they" come from and where did they get their power originally? It sounds as though they are a separate entity of some sort. I'm sure this is very different, but it sounds a bit like some of the religious teachings that I have been tripped up by in the past.

And thank you for answering my last question. It helped a lot. I guess that this is just my mind complicating things again!


Unknown said...

Ram, one question
on death. I am wondering if we need to start practicing how to navigate the Bardo?

Or, just be as aware of Awareness as we go along, and let it all flow after we go? Here we go!!

When I read the blog entries, I feel in good company that so many of us are sharing this great course together.


Santiago said...

That this approach teaches us freedom as "being free from" [to so speak] rather than "being free to" -as in a tantrum-, is one of those verities! Such is too a phrase posted this time: "Anger is an absurdity". Those are statements to meditate upon, to catch as insights. So, thanks you, Dr. Butler!

Avivit said...

Thanx D.R. for your previous answer to my question about Bliss.
So you are saying that....Bliss is The state of the Self... just another word for it???

Ghayas said...

I have not sticked out the neck of my ego for a while, yet I'm still here, so if you feel like choping off a bit or two of it, please feel welcome. The ego wanting to purify the ego is talking here.
Love, Ghayas