People have all kinds of ideas about what spiritual practice is and isn’t, and even when they get an explanation they interpret what they hear or read in all sorts of ways, most of which are off the mark. In this blog post, I will be answering some questions that have recently arisen. If you read carefully, you might find your own questions cleared up.
Did Baba make clear in his teachings that liberation is not for the individual?
I can’t recall any time when Baba taught otherwise. He always stressed that the individual cannot be liberated, and that the only way to liberation is to give up our attachment to, and wrong identification with, any separate identity. In the end, the small self must go: the one doing sādhana is not the One who endures. This was always very clear. If someone did not see it in Baba’s teaching, that does not mean it wasn’t there—it was everywhere. I specifically went to Baba because that was what he taught.
For me, the truth that all individuality, all separateness, must be let go—the reality that there is no such thing as a liberated individual—was always evident in Baba’s teaching. Below are a few examples from his writings:
When the Shakti of the Self contracts, She is known as a limited individual, subject to innumerable births and deaths. She remains a transmigratory soul as long as She is contracted, but once She expands, She becomes Paramashiva. (Secret of the Siddhas, 179).
Bondage and liberation exist only when there is division. The ideas of bondage, liberation, and so on, apply only to a person who, because of māyā, does not understand his true nature and is afraid. (Secret of the Siddhas, 204-5)
“I can do nothing;
it is the universal Self who does all.”
This is sublime teaching.
“I will accomplish this work;
I have already done it.”
This is total ignorance and pride. (Reflections of the Self, 109)[The Guru] regards this world not as matter
but as the embodiment of Consciousness.
For him there is no Maya, no body;
whatever exists is Shiva. (Reflections of the Self, 201)
Many people around Baba never grasped this teaching. Most of them were not prepared for what Baba had to offer; that’s why Baba used to say, “I give you what you want, so that someday you might want what I have to give.” It has been an eye-opener for me that so few people got anywhere near the real teaching. I think it’s true that many of the people who congregated around Baba were simply experience junkies. That’s why all they have now is memories of experiences.
Perhaps I should stress that an intellectual grasp of non-duality is all very well, but to know and inhabit that Reality requires a long and arduous grinding down of the individual identity. This begins with knowing how that individual identity operates. There are plenty of spiritual seekers who believe they can advance toward liberation without doing that painstaking work. They get nowhere, except in their heads. The techniques that I present—other than the foursquare, which I created—are all time-honored internal practices that Baba taught. Whether you call it śāmbhavopāya or St. Symeon’s third level of attention and prayer, constantly boring inward toward the Heart until consciousness rests there is the one crucial practice. It makes no difference where you are on the path; until you reach liberation, that is the practice that matters. It uses the will. If you are not doing this, nothing else you do is likely to get you anywhere.
How did Baba teach you the practice, and what do you mean by “boring in”?
It’s important to realize that when I was alone with Baba by the back stair, he taught me wordlessly, through the Great Silence. It was never an intellectual exercise. From the moment I encountered Baba, I was determined to get what he had, and was going to study only with him. I wasn’t interested in what anyone else in the ashram wanted to teach. Why sit in classes with “teachers” when I could learn from the Guru? How many people never understood that the only teaching worth knowing came from Baba himself, and it was imbued in all its fullness? It was never, for me, intellectual learning. If a teacher’s clarifications are intellectual, they will only get people an intellectual understanding of what Baba taught me silently and experientially.
“Boring in” is what Baba taught me by the back stair. It is the core of the practice, and it rests at the heart of all mystical traditions. You should take it almost literally—the only difference being that you’re not using a drill, you’re using the will to redirect consciousness back into the Heart, through all the bodies that serve as vehicles of the Self. As you practice, your understanding and experience will grow clearer and subtler. I describe this practice in my book. It is simple, and very difficult. But it is the practice—anything that doesn’t center on this right effort of the will is off the point. Anyone who tells you that this isn’t the highest practice has no real awareness of thousands of years of teaching and lineage and scripture, in all mystical traditions.
Can only tantric Gurus give śaktipat?
The notion that only tantric adepts can give śaktipat is misguided. They may be the only ones who call it śaktipat, but even a cursory reading of the Gospels and the saints’ lives reveals that there have been living lineages of spiritual awakening in the Christian tradition, and the same histories can be found in almost any tradition. Sufis speak specifically of masters passing on awakening experiences, and what do you think is really going on in those Zen stories of masters hitting their students, who promptly become awakened? I give śaktipat, and I don’t think of it as tantric; it is simply part of what Baba taught me.
Hopefully these questions and answers will clarify the practice for you. As you continue on the path, the practice will unfold as it should.
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