HOLISTIC Yoga Well Being for Body, Mind & Spirit LESSON 1: Who Am I WHAT IS IT THAT ONE SETS OUT TO DIRECTLY EXPERIENCE? One time a participant in an Enlightenment Intensive, on being given the instruction, "Tell me who you are," pulled out his driver's license. Some people think they are their name, or their identification. Identification is not even quite as close as a name. How ever, even thinking you are a label shows some of the beginning problems that you come up against when you try to work out who you are. "If I'm not my driver's license and I'm not Harry, then who am I?" Then he feels his body, his hands, and says, "I'm this body." That may be, but in that case he was doing it by feeling. Maybe he is the body, and maybe he is not. Can you really know absolutely what the truth is through the process of feeling? No. You cannot know anything absolutely through sense perception. You can know probably, you can be pretty sure, but you might be wrong unless you have a absolute, or direct experience of whatever it is. In this case, it is you that we are talking about.
Close your eyes for a moment or two and imagine a cat, and then open your eyes again. That cat is part of the mind. Wherever that cat was, and what ever the nature of that cat, it was in the space, or the place of the mind. The mind is different than the body. Where you were imagining that cat is the realm of the mind. The body is what you feel with your hand.
Close your eyes and imagine a cat again. This time notice who it is who is looking at the cat. Now you have begun the search for "Who am I?" The "who" that is looking at the cat is not ultimately a part of the mind.
In his book The Science of Meditation,(download a free copy here: The Science of Meditation) my spiritual teacher, Swami Krpalvananda, talks about two kinds of states of union with the Absolute. "In sabija (with seed of desire) samadhi (state of union with the Absolute), the body is separated from the mind, and in nirbija (without seed of desire) samadhi (state of union with the Absolute), the mind is separated from the soul."
Union with the Absolute with seed of desire is the lower kind. Union with the Absolute without seed of desire is the higher kind. In the state of union with the Absolute you have direct, or absolute experiences. In the lower kind of union, with seed of desire, the mind and the body come apart, or separate. In the higher kind of union, without seed of desire, the mind and the soul separate. That which was looking at the cat is the soul. That is the whole answer to everything. The trick is, how do we get this separation to occur?
You are not after the mind. If you are trying to directly experience who you are, and you are trying to deal in the realm of the body or the realm of the mind, you will fail. You can only have relative experiences of who you are by feeling, and by thinking. You may think, "If I'm not Harry, and I'm not my body, then who am I? If I were this, then I couldn't do that, and if I could do this, I could do that, but I can do this, so I must be that." This is a mental process. You may even come up with the right answer, but you will not know whether it is true or not. This is the "Catch 22." Even though you may mentally work out who you are correctly, you will never be sure unless you experience it directly. "I am that. I know I am. I have the strength of ten thousand tigers. I do affirmations every day." Affirmations are all right. They are a way of manipulating the mind, but they never settle anything absolutely. To have an absolute truth you must have an absolute experience. If you are dealing with the body or the mind, you are not going to have an absolute experience.
In Japan, in 746 A.D., a monk asked his master in all seriousness, "Has a dog Buddha nature or not?"
The master retorted, "Mu."
Even if this were translated, it would not help one to understand it. What he is essentially saying is, "Nonsense." That is, you can ask questions which do not help. In fact, anything that you form in the mind by way of questions or answers is not going to do any good. The monk had set out to find out whether he was his body or not.
"If a dog has Buddha (enlightened) nature, then my body must have Buddha (enlightened) nature. There fore, that must be its true nature, and therefore, that must be me; that is, Buddha (enlightened) nature."
The master said, "Nonsense. What is this, asking such a stupid question?"
Here is another example, by Ramana Maharshi. Ramana Maharshi was the "Who am I?" guru (spiritual teacher). He died in about 1950. He had a spontaneous enlightenment experience when he was about seventeen years of age and spent the rest of his life teaching people to ask themselves the question "Who am I?" Toward the end of his life, when pressed about what kind of answer we are after his reply was, "There is no answer to the 'Who am I?' question. Suggested replies to the inquiry of 'Who am I?' such as 'I am Shiva (name of God), are not to be given to the mind during meditation. The true answer will come of itself. No answer the ego can give can be right."
IMPORTANCE OF A DIRECT EXPERIENCE We have a problem. We cannot use our senses; we cannot use our rationale; we cannot use our ego. No matter what the ego thinks, it is never going to come up with the correct thing. What are we to do? This question has been around for a long time. In Greece, not far from Athens, is the temple of Apollo. It is mostly in ruin, but the entry gate is still there. An inscription across the lintel of the gate says, "Know Thyself." This is important. The basis of all religion, of all spirituality, of all personal growth, rests on that one thing. You will be able to progress to the degree that you truly know yourself. Everything else is dependent on it. You can go through philosophy and theology; you can have this experience or that experience; you can use this technique or that technique; you can work hard and be disciplined in your life; but, if you do not know who you are by direct experience ƒ not by knowledge, not by thinking, not by being told ƒ then who is participating? Who is involved in life? Who is it that is doing this?
Did you ever do something and then not feel any fulfillment from it? For example, you finally get your degree and it has no meaning. "At least I can earn some money with it, maybe." Then you are into money, and you go all out for that, too, but in the end it still is not fulfilling. Is there anything in life that is fulfilling? Is there anything that is not just a momentary flash? Is there anything that brings lasting happiness and satisfaction? Yes, there is. Almost anything will do. That is not the problem. The problem is that it is not you who are participating in it. It is some sort of person , or beingness, or false identification that is doing it, and that is what gets the fun out of it. What do you get? Nothing. After awhile you begin to think life is a cheat. Life is a cheat.
However, the Truth is not a cheat. Once you have an absolute direct experience of you, the absolute truth of you, then you can begin to live from you. Every religion has as its base the principle that unless one has an actual direct experience himself, religion is a joke. Well, not entirely a joke. Following a code of behavior is good. However, having followed a code of behavior you will have been a good person, but you will not get any fulfillment out of it unless it was you who were following the code of behavior. This is the point. This is why it is important to have this experience, this direct, absolute experience of who you are. You are not after an answer to the question "Who am I?" You are after the who it is that you are.
FOCUSING ON THE SAME QUESTION IN ANCIENT TIMES Back in about 3000 B.C. one of the followers of Buddha said, "It's what you were doing just a minute ago, but in a different way." Remember when you were visualizing the cat and then trying to get who it was who was seeing the cat? This is the way the Buddhists put it in ancient times: "Who is the repeater of Buddha's name?" Then they would say Buddha's name, and they would say it over and over again. Finally one of them said, "Who is it that is repeating this name?" You try not to answer that, but to experience that directly. However, if you cannot use your body and its senses, your mind and its reason, and your personality traits, what are you left with? Not very much. It is a real problem.
In China about 200 A.D., about eighteen hundred years ago, there was a chan (meditation) master, the sixth patriarch, who was illiterate. One of the monks asked, "How is it that the sixth patriarch was handed the master's robe? His rival for that post of master taught five hundred monks and was able to expound thirty-two volumes of scripture. How then did this illiterate cook get to be the master over the seemingly more qualified person?" The answer was that the person who seemed to be more qualified still indulged in conceptual thought. "I'll get this concept, this pure concept of my true nature." Then one begins to think, "If getting an absolutely pure concept of the voidness of my own nature doesn't do it, then what can I do that's going to do it?" Nothing. It begins to feel as if nothing is of any use. Anything one can come up with is not what we are looking for. How are we going to have this direct experience?
The following quote is from Guru Nanak. He was the founder of the reform Hindu and Moslem sect called the Sikhs. This was about 1520 A.D. He was a truly inspired person. "How shall the truth be known? How shall the veil of false illusion be torn? Oh Nanak, (God is speaking through him), thus runneth the writ divine. Abide by His will and make it thine." If you want the truth that is His will, if you want the truth of you, of who you really are, if you make that yours, then you will have that direct experience. You will know the Truth absolutely. However, you have to accept it the way it is. What if you are just a lump of mud? Are you prepared for that, to have you come out a lump of mud? Are you prepared for that possibility? Are you willing to take the Truth and make it yours whatever it may be? That hurts the ego because the ego wants you to come out the way it wants you to come out. "I'm glorious." I'm this strong, able, capable, eternal flash. I want to be something and I'm going to work on this until I come out the way that I expect myself to come out." Now we are really up against it. Not only can we not work out anything, but all our preconceived notions are going to have to go. We have to just open up and take what is. This is the route to the Truth.
THE BARRIER OF THE EGO In China about 400 B.C., the best student of Confucius, Mencius, was an advisor to the king. Mencius said to the king, "Suppose one of your ministers had gone on a journey leaving his wife and children with a friend, and upon returning found his family starving. What do you think he should do?"
The king said without hesitation, "He should cut off all relations with that friend." Mencius then said, "Suppose now that the leader of the warriors had no control over the warriors, then what should he do?" The king said without hesitation, "He should dismiss him." Then Mencius said, "Suppose now that the kingdom is being ill governed, then what should be done?" The king turned to his courtiers and spoke of other things. You come up against what you think you are, the ego, or the so called "awareness" of you, or you might call it the "isness" of you. When the ego becomes challenged, it starts thinking of other things. The moment you begin to come up to that absolute truth you will have some sort of reaction, either mentally, physically, or emotionally. At this point the ego is being denied.
For example, you think, "I'll ask myself the question 'Who am I?' and I won't think. I'll just wait. I'll just be open." When it starts to happen you will get a sick stomach and you will think this is the dumbest thing you ever thought of. "Let me out of here. This is stupid. Why should I bother with this kind of thing? Absolute experiences are not possible. This makes me feel like kicking people." All of these and other things will happen to you the moment you start to arrive at the Truth. The Truth denies the ego. When you come to the Absolute Truth the ego cannot be involved. The ego is in involved in the perceptual process. The ego is the seer, the knower, the thinker, the causer, the doer. It is all these things, and it is not any of these things. In the end, the truth of you is not ego. But when you come up against the truth of who you really are, the ego throws a fit and makes the mind, the body, and the emotions react. It is like the king who just turned away. When asked what should be done when the kingdom is not being run properly, he changed the subject, like Alice in Wonderland. We are up against a tough problem here. It is incredibly important that we know and directly experience who we are, and yet it is incredibly difficult. What can we do?
THE PROCESS THAT TAKES ONE TOWARD ENLIGHTENMENT This quotation is from the Narada Bhakti Sutras about 300 B.C. "Conversing with one another with choking voice, tearful eyes, and thrilled body, they purify not only their families but the land which gave birth to them."
That is to say, if we can open up sincerely to each other, and at the same time not hurt each other, we will create a situation in which that direct absolute experience of our own true nature can occur spontaneously. This is the approach that we take in the Enlightenment Intensive. We take the question, "Who am I?" and turn it into an instruction, "Tell me who you are." We sit one person in front of another, and one says to the other, "Tell me who you are." The other person, responding with choking'. :voice, tearful eyes, and thrilled body, purifies his mind and his ego, and the conditions are set up in which that direct absolute experience can occur. But there are complications.
When people start opening up to each other, they want to run off with each other. So, we have a structure that says, "No, you sit right there. Do not touch that other person. Just open up your heart and soul and stay right there eighteen hours a day for three days, face to face with it." In this way you have a pretty good chance of having a direct experience of who you are.
We have taken this ancient question, combined it with this ancient principle of contacting, and put it in the dyad structure of two people working to . Then, we keep them at it in a schedule that will keep them from running away every time their mind or body says, "This is stupid, let me out of here." It is difficult. It is incredibly difficult to have this absolute experience, only because the mind and the body keep trying to drag you away, and if they do not, the ego will ensure it. You need to be in a structure with people who are helping and supporting you so that you do not run away, you do not believe all those reasons of the mind, and you are not tempted by the contact into some sort of an affair which keeps you from staying with it until you can have that experience. This supportive structure is what an Enlightenment Intensive is.
WHAT IS A DIRECT EXPERIENCE? Say you have a direct experience. What is the en lightened state like? People have endeavored to experience directly who they are and have known the value of such an experience for a long time. Some people have had the experience of who they really are. A quotation >from the Monadic Upanishad, an ancient yogic text from about 800 B.C., describes the fourth state, the state of enlightenment. The ~ state is the state of being awake. The second state is the dream state. The third state is the dreamless state, and the fourth state is called the state of union with the Absolute. This fourth state is enlightenment. "The fourth state is with out an element with which there can be any dealing. It is without a development. The fourth state is benign, without a second. It is the true self indeed."
The people who were responsible for writing this had this direct experience of the absolute nature of the true self, beyond ego, beyond mind, beyond body. It has nothing to do with anything. It is not something that has been developed. There is a clue for you, and your mind will work on it.
"If my true nature is not something that has been developed or formed, then I'll say that what I am is something that was not developed." This approach does not do it because, even though the enlightened state is described to you, you are missing the absolute direct experience.
Is it easy? No. I do not recommend this for people who say, "Well, I'm not very happy in life, and I'm feeling tired, and just worn out. What should I do?" I do not tell them to go to an Enlighten enlightenment Intensive. People who have their life together and have determination are the people who should take an Enlightenment Intensive. They are gent, healthy, energetic, and they are ready to go. These are the people who should take an Enlighten enlightenment Intensive, because it is rough going. It is not easy.
Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras of about 200 B.C., said, "It (that is, the state of union with the Absolute) is nearest to those whose desire for it is intensely strong." If your desire to directly experience your absolute nature is strong, you are the person who will have that experience. It will be nearer to you. It is a hard thing for the others. It would be better for them to work on other things. There are thirty-one other squares on this mandala for them to work on. If nothing else, they can rest.
WHAT IS THE FINAL STATE OF ENLIGHTENMENT? In India, about 420 B.C., while Buddha was still living, he said, "Whoever finds it finds nothing. Whoever finds it finds all things." The mind can not really handle something like this because it contains a contradiction. Whoever finds it finds nothing, and whoever finds it finds everything. That is to say, anything that you expected to find, you will not. You will find complete emptiness and complete voidness, but on the other hand you will find complete and total satisfaction, which is everything. So anything that the mind, or body, or ego wanted, you are not going to get, but you find everything. The Truth is totally and absolutely satisfactory. It is nothing, yet it is everything. Not everybody is ready for this kind of thing. Only those who are ambitious and who are really ready for the Truth should bother themselves with this kind of endeavor.
What is this final state like? "I and my Father are one," Jesus said. That is a nonsense statement. How can you have two things being one? Yet, this paradox, in the realm of the Absolute, is true. "I and my Father are one." The true acknowledge enlightenment of that statement is beyond the realm of the mind.
The following quote is from the Rg Veda, about 1300 B.C. "The red bird he now has entered the womb of the primeval father." If you had that absolute experience, you would feel just like you had joined hearts with the author of this statement. This is the most ancient statement ever written on the sub;, although verbalized, no doubt, thousands of years before it was written.
SUMMARY 1. The best time to work on "Who am I?" is when everything in your life is going well and you have a little spare time. 2. The "who" you are setting out to directly experience is not your body, and not your mind. It is the soul; the one who is looking at the cat. 3. You cannot directly experience who you are by answering the question. It is important to directly experience who you are. You will be able to progress to the degree that you know yourself. 4. You will not feel satisfaction or fulfillment in life unless it is "you" who are participating. 5. When you come close to the absolute truth of who you are, you will have some kind of reaction. When the ego becomes challenged, it thinks of other things. 6. If we can sincerely open up to each other, and at the same time not hurt each other, we create a situation in which a direct absolute experience of our own true nature can occur spontaneously. 7. A direct experience of the true self, not related to anything else, or arrived at by any via, is enlightenment. 8. The final state of enlightenment is nothing and is all things.
ASSIGNMENT 1. After reading and reflecting on this chapter, record your thoughts and feelings in your spiritual journal. 2. Reflect daily on 'who am I' and record your comments and observations in your spiritual journal. 3. Watch the video: Enlightenment: Accelerating Self Realization by Jack Wexler 4. Read: Enlightenment and the Enlightenment Intensive; Volume 1 & 2 5. Visit the web site www.enlightenmentintensive.com.au 6. Sign up for an Enlightenment Intensive Retreat. 7. Do the enlightenment dyad with a partner: 'Tell me who you are.'