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Highlights: Issue #4475, Saturday, January
Tami Simon Interviews Adyashanti
THE END OF YOUR WORLD -- AN INTERVIEW WITH
TAMI SIMON INTERVIEWS ADYASHANTI
More and more people are "waking up" spiritually.
And for most of them, the question becomes: now
what? "Information about life after awakening is
usually not made public," explains Adyashanti.
"It's most often shared only between teachers and
their students." The End of Your World is his
response to a growing need for direction on the
spiritual path -- and his personal welcome to "a
new world, a state of oneness." In this interview
conducted by Sounds True Publisher Tami Simon and
excerpted from the book, Adya tells us more about
the enigmatic experience of spiritual awakening.
Tami Simon: Let's return to your metaphor of
awakening being compared to a rocket ship
achieving lift-off. How do people know if their
rocket ship of being has actually taken off? I
could imagine some people being deluded about
this. Maybe they have read lots of books about
spiritual awakening, so they make the leap in
their mind that awakening has occurred, but
perhaps in reality they are simply sputtering on
the ground. How do we know for sure that we have
Adyashanti: It's not an easy question to answer.
The only way I can answer it is to reiterate what
the nature of awakening is.
The moment of awakening is very similar to when
you wake up from a dream at night. You feel that
you have awakened from one world to another, from
one context to a totally different context. On a
feeling level, that is the feeling of awakening.
This whole separate self that you thought was
real, and even the world that you thought was
objective, or other, all of a sudden seems as if
it's not as real as you thought.
I'm not saying it is or isn't a dream; I'm saying
that it's almost like a dream. Upon awakening, the
experience is that life is like a dream that's
happening within what you are - within vast,
infinite space. Awakening is not experiencing
vast, infinite space, feeling spacious or expanded
or blissful or whatever. These feelings may be
by-products of awakening, but they are not the
Awakening, quite apart from its by-products, is a
change of perspective. Everything we thought was
real is seen to not be real at all; it's more like
a dream that's happening within the infinite
expanse of emptiness. What is actually real is the
infinite expanse of emptiness. It's the same way
that, when you dream at night, your dream does not
have reality; it's your mind, dreaming your dream,
which actually has the reality -- relatively
Tami Simon: When you describe your own life story,
you say that the rocket ship of your being
achieved liftoff at a specific time and date -
when you were twenty-five years old. Do you think
it is possible that for some people their ship
lifted off over a period of a few years - that
there wasn't any specific moment that it happened,
but instead it was more like a gradual dawning
that that their rocket ship wasn't on the Earth
Adyashanti: I've seen that, too. I've met people
for whom awakening almost happened as if in
retrospect, like it snuck up on them. The
transition may not have been marked by
distinctive, obvious moments. It's almost like
they snuck out of the dream or snuck into outer
space, and then at some point there was
recognition -- "Oh, when did that happen?" They
can't really point to any distinct moment when
there was a change, but they recognize at some
point that a real, total change has happened. So
it can sneak up on you; it can happen that way,
Tami Simon: Not to kill the metaphor here, but is
it possible to say that the rocket ship requires a
certain kind of fuel, and if so, what kind of
Adyashanti: I wish I could say what the fuel is. I
don't know that it's really possible to say what
the fuel is, because it's not limited to something
personal. Awakening does not happen just to people
who really want it. Awakening does not happen just
to people who are sincerely looking for it. It
happens to some people completely out of the blue.
I've met awakened people who were not on a
spiritual path at all. In fact, I've met people
who were in denial of spirituality, and then boom
- out of nowhere... awakening hits them. We
couldn't call such people sincere, and we couldn't
say they were pursuing spiritual realization or
even had an obvious yearning for it. Of course,
the vast majority of people who have an experience
of awakening have had some energy, some yearning,
to awaken to a deeper sense of reality. That's
true, but the problem is, anytime we say "this" is
necessary or "that" is necessary, there will
always be examples to the contrary. Awakening is a
mystery. There is no direct cause and effect,
really. It would be nice if there were, but there
really isn't a direct cause and effect.
Tami Simon: When you describe the rocket ship, you
use the metaphor to talk about nonabiding
awakening versus abiding awakening, with the idea
that abiding awakening means you are permanently
outside of the gravitational field of the dream
state, outside of our habitual tendencies to
constellate as a separate self. Are you outside of
that gravitational field?
Adyashanti: I always hesitate to answer a question
like that, but I'm going to try to answer it. I
don't feel that I can say, "Yes, I am outside of
the gravitational force." It's not really like
that. That's where the metaphor breaks down. All
of these metaphors, all these ways of explaining
things, they're just that -- they're metaphors,
and they do have certain limitations.
I would say that my experience is that I no longer
believe the next thought that I have. I'm not
capable of actually believing a thought that
happens. I have no control over what thoughts
appear, but I can't believe that the thought is
real or true or significant. And because no
thought can be grasped as real, true, or
significant, that itself has an experiential
impact; it is the experience of freedom.
If somebody wanted to call that "being beyond the
gravitational force of the dream state," fine, but
I am always hesitant about claiming something. I
always remind everybody I talk to that all I know
is right now. I don't know about tomorrow.
Tomorrow a thought could come by that could catch
me, Velcro me, pull me into separation and
delusion. I don't know -- maybe it will, maybe it
won't. I have no way of knowing that. All I know
is right now.
That is why I hesitate to say, "Oh yes, I have
crossed a certain goal or finish line," because I
don't see it that way. It sounds like that when
I'm teaching, but that is the limitation of
speech. What I really know is that I don't know.
What I really know is that there are no
guarantees. I don't know what may happen tomorrow,
or the next instant, whether I'll be deluded one
instant from now. What I do know is that I can
never possibly know that.
Tami Simon: Okay, I accept that you don't know
about what may happen moving forward in terms of
when a Velcro thought may occur, but when was the
last time you had a Velcro thought, looking back?
Adyashanti: To be clear, I'm not saying I can't
have a Velcro thought or that I don't experience
Velcro thoughts. A thought can come that can cause
an instant of grasping, that can cause a momentary
experience of a certain separateness. I'm not
saying that it can't happen or that it doesn't
happen. What I'm saying is that when it does
happen, the gap between it happening and the
seeing through it is very small. I don't know if
there's such a state in which such "sticky"
thoughts or such moments of grasping would never
arise in the human system. It seems to me that to
have a human body and mind is to go through those
kinds of experiences occasionally. The difference
is that at a certain point, the gap between the
arising of a sticky thought and its disappearance
becomes so narrow that the arising and
disappearing is almost simultaneous.
So I wouldn't say that I'm at some state where
Velcro thoughts never arise at all. It is just
that the gap gets so small that, at a certain
point, you almost can't see a gap. I think there
are ideas that enlightenment is about getting to
some place where nothing uncomfortable ever
happens, where no delusory thought will ever walk
through your consciousness -- those very ideas
about enlightenment are delusions; it just doesn't
seem to work that way.
Besides, it doesn't really matter. When that gap
is so narrow that it can be seen through very
quickly, all of a sudden that's part of the
freedom, too. We realize it doesn't matter that
we've had a thought, because we don't get caught
for very long. That's really part of the freedom.
I think the rest is selling enlightenment as
something it's not. I understand that people can
hear what I say and create an image about what
abiding realization is. But that's not what I mean
to portray. It's more like the gap between the
divisive thought and believing in the thought
becomes almost nonexistent.
Tami Simon: I am curious what kinds of situations
are troublesome and difficult for you. In our
conversations, you've shared with me that you can
get frustrated at your computer, when, say, your
Internet connection or printer is not working.
What do you do in those moments? Do you do
something to close that gap, or is it just
Adyashanti: Well, usually the frustration is
there, and it's experienced. I experience it, but
there's no judging thought about it. That's a real
key. And I don't mean that it is dismissed, not
paid attention to, but there's no judging thought.
In general, it comes, it's experienced, there's no
judging thought about it, and then it passes. It's
not taken as significant.
There is no secondary thought pattern, "Oh, I
shouldn't have gotten frustrated," or "Why did I
get frustrated?" or whatever it may be. Thoughts
are involved, because it's the thoughts that
create the frustration, but they are seen to not
be true. Seeing that they're not true dissipates
Now, in the past, the process would have been much
longer. The inquiry would have been more intense
and sustained, and I'd really look at things. But
like I said, that gap has narrowed down now, so
things happen almost automatically. In a certain
sense, it's like being a musician. You practice
your scales, and you practice your scales, and you
practice your scales, and then at a certain point
it's become so internalized that it happens almost
without any conscious intention. That to me is
what happens with inquiry. At a certain point, it
just happens, with little if any conscious
Tami Simon: You often talk about thoughts and
feelings like they are two sides of the same coin.
Isn't it possible to have feelings that don't have
any thoughts associated with them? What about
moments of intense awe or an appreciation of
beauty, when tears spontaneously come forward? At
such moments, isn't it possible that you aren't
really thinking anything but that something is
just welling up at the feeling level? Or do you
believe we are thinking but perhaps at a subtle,
Adyashanti: There is what I would call pure
feeling or pure emotion, as anybody who has
experienced a great moment of beauty or awe knows.
There are pure sensory perceptions, a feeling that
comes in that is not created by thought. It
happens. However, I would say that the vast
majority of emotions that most people experience
are duplications of the thinking process; they are
thoughts turning into emotion.
But there is pure emotion or pure feeling that
bypasses the thinking process. They are how this
sensing instrument of ours, this beautiful sensing
instrument we call a body, is interacting with the
environment, and that is a pure interaction; it's
not a virtual interaction.
Tami Simon: All thinking is virtual?
Adyashanti: All thinking is virtual, sure.
Tami Simon: But if there are feelings that are not
derived from thinking, then perhaps there are gut
experiences that also aren't derived from
Adyashanti: The gut is just another way in which
we sense the world. You hear this when people say,
"I have a gut feeling." Sensing with the gut is a
certain type of intuitive capacity; it is an
instinctual way of knowing. We feel things through
that place in the body: our gut is an intuitive
sense organ. Of course, we can feel things that
are duplications of the mind - fearful thoughts,
angry thoughts, conflicting thoughts, contracting
thoughts - but the gut also responds as a pure
sense organ to what's happening.
When thought isn't constricting who we are, people
have these kinds of intuitive experiences. Say you
walk up to the edge of a cliff. You look down, and
you see a huge expanse. There may be fear when you
look down, but if you are sensitive, you might
notice another response, which is that your
consciousness may actually fill the expanse. When
we look at huge expanses, often we breathe in,
right? In the breathing in, we're feeling our
consciousness open to that environment. We breathe
into our lungs, into our heart center, into our
gut. Our whole being, our whole body, is in tune
with the environment. This kind of opening of the
heart - when the lungs go "aah" as consciousness
expands - isn't happening because we're thinking.
This is happening because consciousness is
interacting with the environment. This is what I
mean by pure sensation or pure feeling. And yes,
it happens through gut sensations as well. It's
very powerful and it's very, very beautiful.
It's literally the experience of intimacy. It is
our being experiencing itself with an incredible
intimacy. I'm not saying it's wrong to comment on
it, but as soon as we say something, as soon as we
turn to our friend, something changes. For most
people, that experience happens for a split
second, and then they turn to somebody and say,
"Isn't it beautiful?" And that's not a wrong thing
to say. I say it to people, too, sometimes. But at
that moment, if you're sensitive, you notice that
your whole internal environment starts to change,
and you start to experience what you just said.
Then you are moving into a virtual experience.
It's slightly different from that moment of awe,
that moment where the entire body is participating
Tami Simon: It's one thing for someone to have the
experience of pure feeling when they are
experiencing awe and wonder in nature, but is it
possible to have a pure feeling when it comes to
an emotion like anger? Do you think it's possible
to have a feeling like anger that isn't a
Adyashanti: Of course, of course. This idea that
enlightenment is about people having beatific,
silly little smiles on their faces all the time is
simply an illusion. I like to counter that with
imagining that we are in a modern-day church, and
somebody comes in the back door and blows his lid
like Jesus did, kicking over the money changers,
yelling at the top of his lungs, "How dare you
defile my father's house!" I mean, Jesus was
throwing a holy fit, right? He was upset. He
wasn't faking it. He was literally upset. And he
was expressing his upset.
So can one be upset from a nondivided state? Of
course, you can. Every emotion is available to us.
To be awake doesn't mean we have fewer emotions
available to us. Emotion is just a way that
existence functions through us. There is a divided
form of anger and there is an undivided form of
Tami Simon: Well, how would I be able to
distinguish that inside myself, if I feel a
divided form of anger or undivided anger?
Adyashanti: If you feel divided inside.
Tami Simon: If all of me feels angry, then it's
Adyashanti: I think we've all had the experience
where we feel completely angry, but it still feels
divisive, conflicted. There is a kind of anger
that is -- how can I say it? -- a good work. In
the Tibetan tradition, for example, they have
certain depictions of wrathful deities with
flaming swords and fire coming out of their hair
and their eyes, looking very angry and fierce and
frightening, but there is something in those
depictions that is different from when you
experience your average, ordinary, conflicted
anger. It's something that's hard to describe, but
if you look at these depictions, what's being
shown is a different kind of anger. It's not an
anger that's tearing apart in a negative way; it
is an anger that is tearing apart in a positive
way. I may not be doing a very good job of
expressing this, but what I am trying to
communicate is that even the experience of anger
can come from a pure place.
Tami Simon: I am particularly interested in
exploring this topic, because I am someone who
used to experience a pretty narrow range of
emotions. As I've been growing as a person I now
have available to me this huge, wide range of
emotional experience, and it's really interesting,
rich, and glorious in a lot of ways. When I hear
you teach that most emotional experiences are
duplicate images of thoughts, I want to really
understand which emotional experiences are
derivative, based on concepts, and which are pure.
And how do I know the difference?
Adyashanti: Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not
saying that virtual emotions are something that
shouldn't happen or are somehow wrong or somehow
secondary. For example, I can think about my wife,
Mukti. I can envision her in my mind, and I can
feel an incredible, wonderful upswelling of love.
I know that that emotional experience is virtual.
I know I'm making it up in my mind; I know I'm
making it up literally in thought. That doesn't
make it wrong. But if I were to equate that
emotional experience of love with real love, then
I would be living an illusion, perhaps a heavenly
illusion, but an illusion nonetheless.
I can create that kind of image in my mind and at
times I do that; her image or thoughts about her
float through my mind and there is a wonderful
upwelling in the heart. So the first thing is to
understand that just because an emotional
experience is being derived from the mind, that
doesn't make it bad or something one shouldn't
If we look carefully, we will see that the vast
majority of emotions that human beings experience
are derived from what we are telling ourselves at
the moment. That doesn't make those emotions bad
or wrong, it's just a fact. Even if we look at
something and then comment on it, we can have a
positive emotional response. But if we investigate
our experience, often we'll realize that what
we're actually experiencing is a thought telling
us "that's beautiful" or "that's ugly."
How can you tell if an emotion is a pure feeling
or is derived from thought? You need to look to
see if the emotion comes with a story, if it has
images with it. If it does come with images or a
story, then you know, "Oh, okay, that's something
that's being created; I'm actually experiencing
the thoughts in my mind." Which is fine; it is
fine to do that. It is just that we can be deluded
when we derive our sense of reality from that.
Tami Simon: What about pure perception at the
level of the mind? Is there some experience of
"awakened mind" in which the mind functions not
only as a fabricator of concepts and abstractions
but also as a pure sense organ?
Adyashanti: On the level of mind, there is the
pure perception of infinity, or what Buddhists
call emptiness -- the perception of vast, vast,
vast, vast vastness. It is being perceived not
through the mind in terms of thought, but we could
say that section of the body, the mind area, is
literally where we are taking in the vastness of
infinity, the vastness of space, the pure light of
being, the almost blinding light of being. That is
being seen on the level of mind, not on the level
of thinking. Perceiving in this way is a different
capacity than just thinking; it is the mind as a
sensing instrument sensing infinity.
Tami Simon: You mentioned that all spiritual paths
ultimately bring us to a state of total surrender.
But what if the parts of us that don't want to
surrender are hidden, quite buried in our psyche?
Consciously, we might surrender everything, but
some part of us in our unconscious might still be
clutching. How do we get those hiding places to
come forward? I can imagine hearing your teaching
on surrender and thinking, okay, I basically
understand. I know what it means to be on my
knees. I know what it means to throw myself down
on the ground. But what about the parts in me that
won't surrender? They're not obvious to me.
Adyashanti: There may be nothing you can do about
it. This is the thing that people avoid the most,
right? Give me something; give me a teaching; give
me some hope. Of course, inside of us there are
totally unconscious ways of holding, patterns of
holding that we don't have any access to. Maybe
you don't have access to it, period. End of story.
You will have access to it at the exact moment
that you are meant to have access to it. We may
not like that. People may not like to hear that,
but let's look at our lives, not philosophy or
teaching or what we choose to tell ourselves,
At least in my life, I can certainly look and see
that there were moments where I did not have
certain capacities yet. They just weren't there. I
have no idea what I could have done to bring those
capacities forward. At certain points, I couldn't
have even heard somebody who told me how to have
I had my own teacher tell me certain things
literally hundreds of times over the years. And
only after ten years did I think, "Oh . . . now I
get it. Now I understand. Now it has sunk in." How
was I going to force it ten years before? Could I
have forced it? It doesn't appear as though I
This may not be the empowering spiritual teaching
you are looking for, but everything has its time;
everything has its place. Ego is not in control of
what's happening. Life is in control of what's
happening. To insist that something can empower
us, all at once, to dive into ourselves and see
anything and everything we need to see to awaken,
is working at odds with people's experience.
Everything happens in its time. You're not in
control. This isn't something we want to hear,
though, is it? It isn't something our mind wants.
Mostly we want to hear things that empower our
sense of control. And we radically push away
anything that does not empower our sense of
I say this to people all the time. When you start
to accept what you see as true - not what I say,
but your experience - that's when everything
starts to change.
Many times students come to me and say, "I can't
do anything about this, this part of my delusional
apparatus, this part of my personality." They'll
ask, "What do I do? What do I do?" Often I say,
"Well, let's go back. You just told me there's
nothing you can do. Is that true? Has anything
worked so far?" "No, nothing's worked so far." And
I ask, "Can you find anything to do? Can you see
anything to do?" And sometimes they'll tell me,
"No, honestly, I can't see anything to do." And
I'll say, "What would happen if you actually
ingested that part of your experience that is
telling you there is nothing you can do? What if
you took it in instead of trying to push it away?"
Often, when they take this in - not just
conceptually, not as a teaching that can be
dismissed, but really allowing it into the body -
then this realization of what it is like to live
without resistance starts to change everything.
Sometimes the experiences that we are pushing away
contain the most transformative insights we need
to have. Who would suspect that seeing that
there's nothing, nothing, nothing I can do is
going to be transformative? We're not taught that.
We're taught to avoid that piece of knowledge at
all costs. Even if it's part of your experience,
year after year, decade after decade - even if you
keep experiencing the same thing over and over -
the impulse is to avoid it, to not let it in, to
push it away. See what I mean?
We're all junkies. Really, we're all just junkies
wanting to be high and free. It's the same
dynamic. It's the alcoholic who realizes, "There's
nothing I can do," who is on the way to sobering
up. As long as that person sitting there is
saying, "I can do this. I'm in control. I can find
a way beyond this," no transformation is going to
happen. Bottoming out is nothing more than coming
out of denial. There's nothing I can do, and look
where I am. We don't need to know so much about
what to do. We need to have a mirror in front of
us so we are able to see what we see. When that
alcoholic sees and that drug addict sees that
there is nothing they can do, that they are
powerless to stop their addiction - only then do
they start to see themselves in a clearer light.
There's a transformation that starts to happen
that is not contrived; it is not practiced; it is
not technique oriented. To me, spirituality is a
willingness to fall flat on your face. That's why,
although my students often put me up on a pedestal
and think I've figured out something wonderful, I
tell them all the time - my path was the path of
failure. Everything I tried failed. It doesn't
mean that the trying didn't play an important
role. The trying did play a role. The effort did
play a role. The struggle did play a role.
But it played a role because it got me to an end
of that role. I danced that dance until it was
extinguished. But I failed. I failed at meditating
well; I failed at figuring out the truth.
Everything I ever used to succeed spiritually
failed. But at the moment of failure, that's when
everything opens up.
We know that, right? This isn't sacred knowledge.
Almost everybody knows this; we've experienced it
in our lives. We've seen moments like this. But
it's not something we want to know, because it's
Tami Simon: You suggested that we ask of
ourselves, "What do I know for certain?" I would
ask that question of you. Is there anything you
know for certain?
Adyashanti: Only that I am; that's it. One thing.
So in many senses I'm the dumbest person on the
planet. Literally. Everything else, to me, is in a
state of flux and uncertainty. Everything else we
only dream that we know. I don't know what should
happen. I don't know if we're evolving or
devolving; I don't know any of that.
But the thing is, I know that I don't know. And
contrary to what you might think, that knowledge
hasn't disempowered me. I haven't gone to sit in a
cave in the Himalayas or to just sit on the couch
and say, "Oh well. There's nothing for me to do,
because I don't know anything."
Quite the contrary - life has a part to play
through me, and so I play that part. I'm in union
with the part life plays through me. The part
changes all the time, moment to moment, but that's
what I'm in union with. I'm no longer arguing with
life - it gets to play its part through me, and
now it gets to play its part with agreement,
instead of disagreement.
And it seems that when we're in the deepest state
of agreement, the part life plays through us is
very satisfying; it's literally everything we ever
wanted, even though it doesn't look like anything
we ever wanted.
Tami Simon: I loved your teaching on the
cul-de-sacs that people can get into after an
initial experience of awakening. I am curious if
you would comment on a cul-de-sac that I see
fairly often, which is when people decide to take
on some kind of special mission to save the world
after they have an initial awakening experience.
Do you see this as a cul-de-sac, a way that the
ego has claimed the awakening experience for its
Adyashanti: Let met talk about it from my
experience. Awakening didn't engender that sense
for me. I didn't feel like I needed to go out and
save the world, but strangely enough, when my
teacher asked me to start teaching, to start
sharing the possibility of this realization, what
arose in me was a sense of possibility. I saw that
awakening was possible for anybody and everybody.
There was a certain sense of missionary zeal about
it, which can be alluring and empowering. There's
something wonderful in that inspiration when it
comes from a true place.
There was a lot of energy for it, especially in
the first couple of years that I was teaching.
I've found that it can be part and parcel of
awakening, because one senses that all this
suffering is unnecessary; one really can wake up
from this. A sense of mission can come from that
After a few years of feeling that missionary zeal
myself, I noticed it started to ebb. At first it
was like I was a new puppy in the house, jumping
up and down at your legs all the time, wanting
attention and wanting you to do something. The
first couple of years of my teaching I felt
empowered with what works and what helps people,
and I wanted to share it with people. But after
two or three years, that energy waned. I started
to feel more like an old dog that was curled up at
the side of its master's easy chair, lying there
and letting the world go by.
At this point in my life, the sense of missionary
zeal is pretty much gone. There is no sense that
something needs to happen. I see the potential in
everybody, but there's no sense of hurry about it.
I see it as a process of maturing. It's a phase
that many of us go through. I think the key is -
do we go through it? Do we keep going? Or, at some
point, does that missionary zeal provide the
platform for the ego's reformation? If that starts
happening - if the ego uses awakening as a new and
improved missionary platform - that can lead to
all kinds of distortions.
For example, we might start seeing ourselves as
the savior of humanity or our teachings as the
greatest teachings ever. As far as I can see, if
things go that way, we start to get delusional.
Often, when this happens, it's because someone's
ego has grasped on to some powerful experience he
or she has had. If there's latent energy there,
and that energy starts flowing into the ego, it
can lead to some of the deepest delusions
We've seen this from time to time in disastrous
cult-like behavior. This can happen when there is
a lot of energy flowing into the ego and deluding
it. Before you know it, you think you are the
savior of humanity.
Whereas in truth, none of us is the savior of
humanity. The greatest avatar who has ever walked
the Earth, if such embodiments even exist, is like
a grain of sand on a vast beach. As human beings,
we are all just doing our little part. It's the
totality; it's the One itself that we are but
expressions of. If any of us start to think we are
playing a bigger part than we are - if we see
ourselves as anything but a small part of an
infinite mosaic - it seems to me we're starting to
become inflated and deluding ourselves.
Tami Simon: Do you have any suggestions for how we
can point out to people that their ego is using
their realization as a form of personal territory?
I encounter this quite a lot and have difficulty
pointing it out in any kind of effective way.
Adyashanti: Traditionally, there were some
safeguards used by spiritual traditions to prevent
the ego using realization in this way, but if we
look back in the history of spirituality, we see
the safeguards didn't work that well. Often,
people who had a profound realization were part of
a bigger community. Even teachers were part of a
community of teachers. The idea was that people
would keep an eye on each other.
In truth, it never happened like it was supposed
to. Teachers can keep an eye on their students,
but once somebody breaks out of that role, there's
not that much keeping an eye on each other. I
mean, we've seen that in almost every tradition.
There are people who get inflated or go off on
some strange tangent. I do think it's perfectly
appropriate that we try, if not to change people,
then to reflect back to them - especially if we
see somebody really half-cocked. Not that they'll
I wish I had a good antidote to what you are
describing. I've mentioned that, as a teacher,
when I discover students who are inflated with
their own realization, it is the hardest thing for
me to get them out of. I think it's one of the
hardest things for a spiritual teacher to deal
with. And if a spiritual teacher has a difficult
time with his or her students, where there is
already a certain sense of trust, how much harder
is it going to be for the average person to come
up to someone and say, "Hey, you know, you may not
be as pristine an example of liberation as you
think you are."? It can be a really difficult
thing to do.
Without making excuses for anybody, we do each
have a certain karmic makeup. I have been the type
of person, through no choice of my own, who has
never been attracted to power. Here I am, a
spiritual teacher, which is a role that people
give great power to. However, the way I see it,
the truth is that I have no power at all except
the power that other people grant me. All the
power is in the students' hands. And it's good for
people to know that. I've always experienced that
when people give me too much power or authority, I
start to feel like I'm living in a surreal bubble.
Inherent in people giving other people power is a
projection, right? When somebody gives me too much
power, they've projected that I am something
different from them. And I find that a surreal
environment to be in. That's why I avoid it as
much as I can, because it has a sense of unreality
Other people, quite obviously, are more attracted
to power than I am. They find it alluring to be
the positive projection of others. It's enticing
to them. I couldn't say exactly why; it's just
never been comfortable for me, personally.
Tami Simon: At the age of twenty-five, when you
experienced what you call your "first awakening,"
you mentioned that you heard a voice that said,
"Keep going, keep going." What is that voice?
Would you call it your conscience, or the still,
small voice within?
Adyashanti: You can call it either one of those.
Tami Simon: It seems that if we each have that
type of inner voice, then that inner voice would
keep us from co-opting our realizations into a
personal power play. You heard that voice that
said your realization was not complete, but does
everybody possess an inner voice like that?
Adyashanti: In one sense, I would say yes. In an
ultimate sense, we are all the same, so we all
have access to the same capacities. At the
relative level, however, the question is whether
everybody hears their inner voice. Apparently, not
What is this inner voice of wisdom? It is what I
am pointing to when I talk about sincerity. It is
the intelligence within us that keeps us on track,
keeps us in alignment.
In one sense, I think almost everybody has
experienced this still, small voice. The example I
often give is when you are dating some man or some
woman and it ends badly. Something inside you
says, "Don't do that again." But then we meet
someone new, and we don't listen to the voice. We
are attracted; this person is sexy, and we just
want to be with him or her. In the end, we find
that the still, small voice was correct. We
shouldn't have kept dating that person. In the
end, it all collapses, and in the end, this still,
small voice wins.
So this still, small voice is not mystical. It is
something that I think a vast majority of people
have heard at times. But we're so good at
dismissing it. We want that still, small voice to
justify itself - to tell us why. One of the good
indications that the voice within us is authentic
and sincere is that it will never justify itself.
If you ask it, "Why?" you'll get silence. If you
ask it to explain itself, it won't. The still,
small voice doesn't need to do that - and it
If you are talking to the ego and you ask, "Why?"
it will talk back to you. If you ask the ego,
"Does this mean everything will be okay?" it will
give you assurances. The still, small voice,
though, has an inherent sort of insecurity about
it. It offers no guarantees. The voice is a gift.
Either we listen or we don't.
Why I listened, and why others don't, I don't
know. I couldn't say why. I'm just glad that the
voice was there in my case and that I could hear
it. It was persistent. And, by the way, I didn't
always listen to it. Many, many times I didn't
listen to it.
Tami Simon: Is that voice like a guide, a
protector, or just part of our mind, part of who
Adyashanti: I think it's all of that. It is a
guide. It is a protector. It is the flow of
existence. By the way, this intelligent flow of
existence doesn't always show up as a voice. It's
not always audible. At this point, for me, it's
very rarely audible. At other points, it was
literally a voice. As I said, during that first
realization, the voice said, "This isn't the whole
of it. Keep going," and it was an audible
But now, this guiding intelligence appears more as
a flow. It is more like sensing the energy
currents in life. The voice is also an indicator
of the flow. I think it has to become a voice when
we can't feel the natural flow of life, the flow
to turn left or the flow to turn right, the flow
to do this or the flow to do that.
Many of us aren't sensitive enough to feel that,
and so the flow appears as a voice. But at this
point, for me, it's much more like following a
natural flow. As the Taoists would say, follow the
flow of the Tao.
So it has different aspects to it. It's a flow.
It's a voice. It's a protector voice. It's your
counselor. It's your conscience, but not the
conscience society taught us. It is a different
conscience than that. Because the conscience that
society taught us is our superego - and that
conscience always contains judgments. This is not
the superego. This is something else. This comes
from a totally different state of being.
Tami Simon: You've talked about how, early on, you
came to the discovery that you couldn't ride the
coattails of a teacher, a path, or a tradition,
that you were going to have to find your own way,
and how important that was.
Adyashanti: That was hugely important for me.
Tami Simon: And you encouraged your students to
also find their own way. What is interesting to me
is that, at the same time, it seems that many
people, including me, feel a connection with you
and feel somehow less alone because of knowing
you, almost like we are alone but together at the
same time. Could you talk about that?
Adyashanti: When I was in my early twenties, and I
realized that I needed to find my own way and not
rely solely on a tradition or a teacher, an image
came to me. It was an image of being out on a
space walk with a cord connecting me to a space
capsule, and at a certain point, I reached down
and cut the connecting cord. I was alone, and I
wasn't dependent on anyone or anything. Yet, this
didn't mean that I left my teacher; this didn't
mean that I left my tradition. I didn't reject
anything. It was simply a seeing that ultimately
the responsibility is here; it's in me.
Ultimately, no tradition, no teacher, no teaching
is going to save me from myself. I realized I
can't abdicate that authority.
And, of course, at that moment, it was very
frightening. I thought, my God, what if I delude
myself? At that moment, I knew that I didn't know
much. And yet there I was, determined that
everything needed to be verified inside.
Many people have told me that they see themselves
as my students and that it is different from
studying with other teachers, because I'm not the
kind of spiritual teacher who has a personal
relationship with my students. I come, I teach, we
interact when I teach, but I don't have a retreat
center; I don't have an avenue in which we relate
in a casual way. It is moment by moment by moment
by moment by moment.
This is not the only kind of relationship to have
with a teacher, by the way. I think close
student-teacher relationships have a great part to
play as well. In fact, when my teaching started to
get bigger, when it went from small to quite large
over the course of several years, there were some
people who missed the smallness. The smallness
worked for some people -- I would teach, we'd have
tea or lunch or breakfast afterward, and that
worked for certain people. When the teaching got
bigger, and by necessity the structure of things
changed, for some of those people it no longer
worked. They had to go find something that better
met their needs, where there was more intimacy.
By the very nature of it, the style in which I
teach is one in which people need to at once stand
on their own, but also through standing on their
own to find a certain intimacy with each other.
That's where I meet people, in that place where I
see them as whole and capable and having
capacities that they may not think they have. And
when they stand there and they start to discover
their own inner sufficiency, that's where we meet.
I don't meet people in their insufficiency, where
they don't think they're capable. The more they
stand up in themselves the more we find ourselves
meeting in an intimate way, a very personal,
There are a lot of influences that come to our aid
when we're willing to be on our own - seen and
unseen, known and unknown. The point is not to get
stuck on the idea that it is all about being
alone. That is a particular experience of a moment
of aloneness, of facing oneself, of not grasping
on to the teacher or the tradition or the
teachings - including mine, by the way. All of a
sudden, you are left with yourself; that is the
aloneness. But when we face that and we are
willing to be there, mysteriously we start to find
we have lots of company. There are lots of people
doing the same thing. The teachings start to be
seen in a different way; the teachers that we may
study with start to be seen in a different way. A
much more mature relationship ensues from that
- Adyashanti and Tami Simon, posted to The_Now2