This is something I’ve been wanting to exclaim about for a while. I have just recently re-visited a similar topic on Little Satsang, a Facebook group a friend from work has got me on. Much of what i say here has been posted there, but you may want to look it up anyway.
A few years ago now i attended a Goddess conference in Fremantle, WA. One of the speakers was Isira. She says, without any trace of reticence or modesty, she is a great spiritual master with all sorts of training, initiations and realisations, even into ‘Tibetan yoga of consciousness’ whatever the hell that is. Really, just look at her website.
Anyway, Isira made it perfectly clear in answering some questions that someone did not have to ‘do’ anything; all we need to do is just be. No practices, no meditations, no self observation – just let yourself be, as we are already perfect. Now to me this is on par with the spiritual advice of Brad Goodman from the Simpsons:
” Goodman: We have to change from Human BE-ings, to human DO-ing’s….now, what’s next?
Bart: (as he gets up to leave) A human going!”
Now I am obviously a little more polite than Bart – and I was only a dozen feet away from this blessed Master and right at the front, so everyone would see…so I just made retching noises to a friend instead.
This whole bloody nonsense of just ‘being’ needs some serious stomping on. It does not exist anywhere in the esoteric traditions. Nowhere. Not eastern, western, oral, written…no where. It is a modern invention, something that scuttled into existence when some westerners misunderstood some Eastern masters, who really had no idea that westerners could be so bloody stupid and take them literally and not look at their lives.
All Masters still practice.
Spiritual development requires a complete rebirth of the self. We cannot simply be – as we are actually, to use unfashionable language, born into Original Sin – meaning we as individuals are not naturally united with the One. And please do not rabbit on about Children being One with God. If we are all One with God when we are born, we are obviously choosing to remove ourselves from Unity by adolescence, so for all adults the deal is the same. We are not naturally, fully within our whole being United with the One – our natural unborn, uncreated self is; but who is united with and being that that besides the Adepts and Masters?
So advising someone to simply ‘be’ is as effective as using a stale doughnut for a life preserver.
Similarly with the concept of self inquiry – something that is an essential part of all esoteric traditions but which is being divorced from tradition and ending up as nothing useful. I am taking for an example the work of John Sherman, but there are plenty of others doing the same, so I really shouldn’t pick on him.
A lot of it seems to be a rendition of the work of Gangaji (which I was exposed to in the mid 90s), which of course is not surprising as Gangaji was John’s guru. While appreciating the obvious impact this work, and style of work seems to have on many people, I still find myself somewhat at a loss. I am reminded of J Krishnamurti’s famous, ‘truth is a pathless land’. A wonderful, enigmatic saying pointing to a core eternal verity, no doubt. Unfortunately it, like what I have read about ‘self inquiry’, is also worthless in by itself.
‘Self inquiry’ is – from what I can tell – just a name for a method of realisation found, in some shape or form in EVERY authentic spiritual discipline. However, unlike most traditional disciplines and schools this approach seems to consciously reject the outer forms of religious practices that, in other traditions house and ground these methods of realisation.
The danger is that by eschewing paths, practices, esoteric symbolism, ritual, religion and processes, this approach can easily be misunderstood. Simply turning your attention to the ‘I’ and keeping it there sounds wonderfully fine – uncomplicated and direct. And so it is, expect for our extensive capacity of self-deception. Having to do ‘nothing’ but inquire (without a guided technique) can lead to the mistake that one is inquiring when really one is going round in a circle. It is for this reason these methods of introspection were never the sole paths within traditional religion. Other methods of realisation, surrender to the divine and grounding in outer communal religious practices and service helped counter the self-deception often thrown up by the inquiry method.
And of course, that single phrase – focus inward on the ‘I’ and remain focused, look at the truth of what you are – actually says all that can be said about this approach. Finito. There really is no point in saying anymore, no need for Gangaji, John Sherman, blogs, books, donations, websites, Satsangs at all.Yet the teachings and the articles proliferate, all circling around the same theme.
I am of course reminded again of J Krishnamurti who basically said there is nothing to be said in hundreds of lectures and 70 books over 60 years. It is worth noting also that Krishnamurti, despite devoting his life to sharing his understanding of a pathless land, complained towards the end of his life that not a single student seemed to ‘get’ what he was really on about (see ‘The Star in the East by Roland Vernon).
If there is no way of teaching or learning what self inquiry produces, then we really should stop talking about it at all. If there are no discreet processes, practices, techniques why are there teachers at all?
John Sherman clearly says ALL the various spiritual disciplines and processes of the last 3000 years do not work, which is fine, as it is only his point of view. However, when we look at his description, for example of Buddhist Shamata meditation as only training the mind, we see he actually misses so much, as any authentic Buddhist teacher will be able to demonstrate. No wonder he can say that the spiritual processes don’t work; they obviously won’t with the wrong view, training or information.
The fact remains that if we want to serve and unfold in the One we need to die to who we are; something that can be done of course by self observation, but rarely by observation without training, techniques, meditation and guidance from teachers. The esoteric traditions know this and offer all these things, as they have continually done so for millenia. These newer approaches and teachers come and go; Bach, Gawain, Redfield, Chopra, Tolle…every few years a new one 🙂