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A few weeks ago I went to see Adyashanti (Stephen Gray). He's a very down-to-earth kind of guy -- quite the opposite of the aloof Eckhart, whom I saw some years ago. Adyashanti's talk was given in a church with beautiful stained glass windows, and he remarked at one point on the emotional realness of the Gospel description of Jesus' agony in the garden.

I was impressed by his talk and ordered his newest book from Amazon (Adyashanti, The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment, Boulder, Sounds True, 2009). The book is addressed to those who have had glimpses of "enlightenment" and want to know how to turn these glimpses into a more abiding state of consciousness.

I put the word "enlightenment" in quotes because it means different things to different people. For Adyashanti, it means a sense of non-separateness from everything else in the universe. Translating this into Catholic terms, I assume this equates to the unitive stage of the mystical life.

Adyashanti's view is that this agenda of wanting to recapture the glimpse is itself the problem. "What makes more sense is to ask how you unenlighten yourself," he says (p. 40). "What is still held on to?"

In other words, he's advocating honest self-awareness rather than trying to get oneself into some particular state of mind. This awareness then separates from the mental conditioning or "false self," and this separation provides another glimpse -- which, again, may or may not last.

I've often wondered whether it was this "false self" that Jesus was talking about when he issued instructions such as to "deny one's self" (Mark 8:34). Equally, Adyashanti's call for honesty in self-examination reminds me of Jesus' remark that it is knowing the truth that will set you free (John 8:32).

Like Eckhart, Adyashanti writes in ordinary language and avoids any of the technical terminology of Eastern philosophies. However, for me Adyashanti writes with greater power and precision than Eckhart.
 
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Some more thoughts on this Derek . . . .

The periods of aridity which occur during a life of prayer indicate the limits of the mind. Obviously, from this pov, the mind is incapable of knowing God, and even His signs through touches are seldom really Him as He is, unless infused knowledge is given. These periods of aridity are when God is working completely unknown to the mind and senses; whereas all that is characteristic of the nondual state is the expanded mind and relatively uncontracted subtle body. And so it may be, to say it somewhat differently, that nondual awareness is actually a more active mind-state than aridity when the faculties are held supernaturally beyond their own means.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by w.c.:
These periods of aridity are when God is working completely unknown to the mind and senses;


Yes, that is indeed a difference.

Adyashanti and Eckhart are teaching awareness, but there must always be this controlling self that is charge of cultivating the awareness.

What they don't allow for is grace.
 
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Yes, Derek, a good point and clear. When is the self allowed to be taken up by grace? Only grace can do this, since the self is always self-perpetuating. So as you say, what is sometimes said to dissolve in the non-dual traditions is always, in a more subtle form, in operation; this may be where various distortions arise, such as "crazy wisdom," where the self can no longer manage the energy flowing through the nervous system and activating tendencies that need grace for transformation in ways the self is incapable. But via supernatural grace, the self isn't an obstacle, since it is being treated by its Source, which we Christians would say is the mystery of Persons, or the heart of personness itself.


And I also find the distinction between self and personness important, as aluded to above. Personness is never dissolved in non-duality, which is much more than nervous system patterning. I don't mean by personness merely the reflexive self, or what Eckhart calls the "little me" or false self. I'd say that personness comes through most profoundly when the heart is purified, and regardless of how "ego-less" folks appear to be.

In one of the Upanishads, there is a discription made where the largest bundle of nadis, or meridians, emerging from the heart (the back of the heart chakra, I believe), ascend and connect with the eyes. And in the eyes we see the entire spectrum of feeling awareness in a person. The saints are people whose eyes are pools of welcome. I've met three, I think, and each is like a different jewel or quality of personness.


And so the self can never put itself to rest. When God touches us, there is a nourishing rest which simply cannot be imagined as one's own doing.

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And, I need to put myself to rest . . . . .

The "object" must be larger than awareness for gratitude to be infinite. If the "object" is one's own awareness, then there is kind of self-contracting process going on. There seems to be more going on than consciousness. Eckhart seems to allude to it at times when he speaks of the Infinite and uses other metaphors that suggest something more than awareness, or transcending it. When Oprah asked him what happens at death, he at first refused to speak of it, but ended up saying that our being returns to its Source. The way he spoke suggested Source, rather than the mind realizing itself as some Buddhists claim.

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Good discussion!

quote:
I put the word "enlightenment" in quotes because it means different things to different people. For Adyashanti, it means a sense of non-separateness from everything else in the universe. Translating this into Catholic terms, I assume this equates to the unitive stage of the mystical life.


That's from Derek's opening post, and I see some of the exchanges have touched on this. We've batted this around a lot, especially in the Christian Spirituality Issues forum, on numerous threads. The "executive summary" is that it might or might not be the same -- it usually isn't, but is more a Buddhist state . . . a metaphysical mysticism. It would be unheard of for a Catholic mystic in the unitive stage to go on and on about one-ness and non-separation without reference to God, grace, relationship, love, etc. Most likely, Adyanshanti, Tolle, Wilber, Cohen and others are describing a simple, non-reflective, non-volitional awareness state where one experiences the immediacy of other existents through the senses and spiritual intuition simultaneously. Nothing wrong with that, only you have to sacrifice your reflective consciousness and all that entails to maintain it.
 
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I've shared before how it was clear to me my Christian friend was simply not experiencing kundalini and all the awareness states therein; this went on for years, until I was in a crisis and decided to do his embarrassingly simple chair exercise:

"Pull up an empty chair. Let Jesus sit there. You just talk to Him from your heart. Let Him love you. Tell Him everything that troubles you . . . . "

That sort of thing! It sounds like ignorance or foolishness. And Paul speaks of this as folly to the world. And that opening to Jesus, or re-opening since childhood, occured long before a return to the church. So while the Body of Christ is no optional feature, it is possible for people to just first engage Him very simply without having to immmediately deal with all the baggage typically associated. And at least for myself that opening to Him without the church context didn't lead to Gnostic distortions, since He isn't well represented by those concepts anyway.

I would likely never have gotten to that opening to grace along the path I'd taken.

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quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
it might or might not be the same


Good summary!

One can find both similarities and differences.

St. Teresa always refers to God, even when she is discussing the "spiritual marriage" where "the soul, I mean the spirit, is made one with God" (Interior Castle, VII.2.3).

One description she gives is this:

"In the spiritual marriage the union is like what we have when rain falls from the sky into a river or fount; all is water, for the rain that fell from heaven cannot be divided or separated from the water or river. Or it is like what we have when a little stream enters the sea, there is no means of separating the two. Or, like the bright light entering a room through two different windows; although the streams of light are separate when entering the room, they become one" (Interior Castle, VII.2.4).

Although the above quote invokes the notion of non-separateness, it only makes sense if a prior relationship existed between creature and Creator.

Compare that with Adyashanti's description of people experiencing what he calls "awakening." He says that "in that instant, the whole sense of 'self' disappears. They way they perceive the world suddenly changes, and they find themselves without any sense of separation between themselves and the rest of the world" (pp. 1-2).

This also describes non-separation, but does NOT mention creature and Creator. For Adyashanti, the experience is comparable to "waking up from a dream" (p.2), and therefore not a question of union but of the disappearance of a previous and false notion of separateness.
 
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One would expect "oneness" between creature and cosmic energies, but not between creature and Creator. Maybe what St. Teresa describes is more an effect of union, or how the soul cannot know itself as separate from Him in the moment. And she is describing a degree of sanctification and intimacy obviously beyond my understanding, but it seems to have the quality of being received. This is also true of the non-dual experience in a different way, in my experience, where there is a kind of radiant kinship between creatures; this may be a direct sense of how all beings are upheld in the same way, which seems to be "causal" from the non-dualist persepctive, but is an "effect" from the pov of infusion of grace. And so in a life of prayer we can partake of those "effects," but not confuse them with their Source.

As this non-dual path may increase simplicity of perception, there seems an increase in gratitude, or enjoyment of life through intuition of being. Phil calls it "be here now in love," which implies gratitude. So we may not be far from our non-dual fellows in important ways, although appearing lost to them.

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It's an interesting idea, that the nondual folks get themselves stuck in a spiritually blinkered state that impedes any further progress. However, it's so far outside my knowledge and experience that I can't comment on it.

Also the idea that St. Teresa's "spiritual marriage" may have been the result of a loss of a sense of separateness rather a loss of actual separateness ... again, interesting, but I don't know how one would verify that.

Certainly she believed it to be an actual union and not just an apparent one. In the next paragraph she wonders if this is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 6:17, "whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him."
 
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Derek:

We are left to speculate, or at best surmise from tastes of Love we know.

A non-dualist might make the claim that there is nothing fundamentally distinct between self and world, since the "world" might even be viewed as "maya." Only awareness remains. But in the mystic's case, becoming one with Him - and by Him - doesn't seem to leave them talking as though they were God Himself. Maybe it is the "by him," that remains, knowing that union isn't a power arising from within awareness.
 
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"The truth as That which always IS."

I just watched a presentation on youtube. He's a lot easier to listen to than some of the others, as some of you noted.

"All experiences change . . . Enlightenment as the freedom of the endless tyranny of experiences . . . finding that within oneself which is unchanging."

Yes, that's the True Self, the deepest experience of one's subjective awareness . . . awareness prior to reflectivity, affectivity, volitional engagement, etc. Very good to be awake at this witnessing level. It does help one realize a certain equanimity. It also seems as though the kundalini process conduces unto this kind of consciousness.

It's good that (unlike Tolle and others) he doesn't try to make it sound like this is what the Gospel is really all about. To his credit, he (like the Buddha) just says what he has to say about this state and its requirements, leaving more theological matters out of the discussion. The Gospel, of course, is interested in more -- moral and theological issues, for example, and right relationships. To be fully human, one needs to exercise the mind and will. . . to put one's gifts to use. . . to build the earth. Truth has more depth and texture than simple awareness, and love is more than feeling oneness with everything.

Btw, ever notice how people deeply in touch with enlightenment states can't seem to do much more than talk about that? There's really no worship, here, no guidance for living, etc. It's a very narrow teaching, isn't it, and yet there is an important message that does resonate. Still, would you want to have this guy over for dinner? Wink
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Derek:
What they don't allow for is grace.


Serves me right for writing about the book before I've actually finished it. There is in fact a whole chapter about the question of grace vs. effort.

Adyashanti notes that some people hold the "all is grace" view, while others believe "it's all effort." Both positions he finds unsatisfying, since "the truth never lies in any polarized statement or dualistic formulation" (p. 160).

At the same time, "Life is full of grace" (p. 106), he asserts. The whole of life is always prompting and assisting us to wake up, to the extent that he can say, "The divine itself is life in motion. The divine is using the situations of our lives to accomplish its own awakening" (loc. cit.). (Heh, heh, always wanted to use the expression "loc. cit." in a forum post, LOL.)
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
Btw, ever notice how people deeply in touch with enlightenment states can't seem to do much more than talk about that? There's really no worship, here, no guidance for living, etc. It's a very narrow teaching, isn't it, and yet there is an important message that does resonate. Still, would you want to have this guy over for dinner? Wink


He does place a great emphasis on the need for truth, honesty, and sincerity, which could be seen as moral values, although I don't think Adyashanti would use the word "moral" in connection with them.

His view is that "sincerity and honesty are manifestations of the absolute sincerity of being" (p. 72).

In other words, one must cultivate them in the beginning, but at the end it turns out that they flow freely from the authentic being.

As for guidance for living, he stresses that awakening is not some kind of avoidance strategy or a place to escape from life. He emphasizes the need to "deal with our lives as they actually are" (p. 74), and then explains this means honest self-examination.

As for having him over to dinner ... somewhere he mentions that a student wanted to come over to his place and hang out with him, just to pick up the vibes, I suppose. Adyashanti advised against this, as he said the student would find it boring. Most of his spare time Adyashanti just sits around and plays pool. I think the perception that he's always talking about enlightenment is caused by the fact that we only ever see him in one context. He's not like that in his spare time.
 
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It is interesting how the Divine is understood as needing or wanting to wake up through creation. From the way we are upheld, via the Divine's manifestation as cosmic energy, this perception would make sense, especially if this is the only way in which a person can experience the Divine in a non-dual context. As such, God is rendered as a kind of impersonal, yet intimate presence, but rather faceless, like the Tao; whereas via graced contemplation God is known as the most personal presence possible.
 
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Derek, I was just teasing about the "having him over for dinner" part. There is great value in giving testimony to this experience and its requirements, which surely do include moral living, integrity, etc.

quote:
"The divine itself is life in motion. The divine is using the situations of our lives to accomplish its own awakening" (loc. cit.).


I included your "loc. cit." Big Grin But I just can't help to call attention to this peculiar notion that the divine isn't already fully awake (not to mention omniscient, omnipresent, etc.). This is a far cry from the understanding of the divine found in Christianity . Where do you think he gets such a notion? Seems he's conflating the True Self with the divine -- a problem I find with Chopra, Wilber, Cohen, Tolle, etc.
 
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I don't know the answer to that. But he does qualify all his statements by repeatedly reminding the reader that this state is ultimately beyond description and beyond conceptualization. Which kind of puts a limit on our discussions Big Grin

BTW, for those who haven't the book, the publisher allows you to preview some portions of it here:

http://books.google.com/books?...ti&btnG=Search+Books

Also on the subject of ineffability, I don't know if it's been mentioned on these forums before, but there is an essay by Hans Urs von Balthasar called "The Unknown God" (Elucidations) where he discusses the question of how the Church can at one time assert that God is ineffable, and then proceed to make positive statements. Von Balthasar notes that the Church has shied away from explaining how this is possible:

http://books.google.com/books?...ns&btnG=Search+Books
 
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Derek, that's the apophatic/kataphatic tension, which applies to even creatures. For example, it's possible to make positive statements about a human being and at the same time acknowledge that there is still great mystery unrevealed. So it is with God, especially in a tradition where we believe that God has revealed something of Who God is and what God expects of us. Once that tension is broken to the extent that one adopts the kataphatic more than the apophatic side (or vice versa) all kinds of problems come about.

My guess is that Adyashanti is no fan of the kataphatic aspect of Christianity or any religion. What do you think?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
For example, it's possible to make positive statements about a human being and at the same time acknowledge that there is still great mystery unrevealed.


Good explanation. I think you may just have solved a problem that's been baffling theologians for centuries!

quote:
Originally posted by Phil:
My guess is that Adyashanti is no fan of the kataphatic aspect of Christianity or any religion. What do you think?


I can't remember Adyashanti saying anything explicitly kataphatic. He says that awakening is "beyond ... the various forms of spirituality or religion or whatever it may have been that helped propel consciousness beyond its fixation and identification with form" (p. 168). My emphasis, of course.

But this is not an other-wordly withdrawal. Later on the same page (loc. cit.!) he quotes with approval the fact that Jesus remained "in the world" (John 1:10) while being "not of the world" (John 8:23).
 
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The discussion is very interesting. I had my "Adyashanti phase", but mostly I watched him on the youtube.

Derek, you refer to "unitive stage" in your first post. I think it'd be useful to distinguish between the unity in various faculties of the soul.

The non-dualists speak about oneness or unity with regard to the faculty of awareness (memory - in Augustine and Aquinas). It means that things are immediately present, there is no observer and no thing observed. I suppose that is what he calls the lack of separateness between ourselves and everything else. I think what is interesting here, is that there is no "union" technically here, but a prior unity. There is no "becoming one with" for the non-dualists - when you ask them closely, they'll tell you that you cannot "become" everything, because you are always already one with everything, you just don't see it. That's why we call them non-dualists, and not "unitivists" Wink There was never any separation in the Ultimate Reality they awakened to.

On the other hand, when you read Christian mystics, they (apart from Meister Eckhart) tell you that you are separated from God (because of sin), and that Christ had to die to bring everything into unity (St. Paul writes about this in Ephesians, I guess). This unity, that we achived through Christ, is gained by grace and we cannot say it was "always already there, but we didn't see it".
Similar is in spiritual life, which is actualization of what Christ did for humanity in every person's life. So we become one with God, we didn't realize we're already one.

But - what "one" means in this? It's not the oneness we experience in transparency of our primordial awareness. It's a unity in the faculty of will. It's unity of what I want and what God wants. And if we have to persons, the "always already one" would be only in the early stages of infant symbiosis with the mother. Between persons there's always a tension between what I want and what you want. The same with God and us. That's why I think that "union through love" for Christians means to adjust our "want" to God's "want". To want what God wants. And this can happen as well when we don't have any experience of non-dual awareness.
When we're liberated from sin by God, gradually, our ability to want what he wants, grows in us, and this is not our prior nature, it's his gift to us - "new creation".

I agree with Phil that in the unitive stage there can be simultaneously experiences of cosmic or metaphysic unity, especially if kundalini was operating in a mystic, but these are two different faculties and two paths.

I used to think that what Teresa describes as a raindrop in a river or what is beatifully done in every eucharist as a drop of water dissolves into the wine, referred to metaphysical unity, enlightenment.
But how can the raindrop fall into the waters of enlightenment, if it always already is in those waters? We cannot become buddhas - the koan says it's like trying to make a mirror by polishing a stone: impossible. What Teresa tries to convey, I suppose, is the union of wills - it means that we become so one with God's love, that we cannot wish anything that is against God, we cannot gravely sin, because our will is so conformed with His.

It's like marriage - my will and my fiancees will become one in the sense that we will want the same thing - stay together and grow in love, build home and family, have children etc. But metaphysically we are still separate (thank God!Wink ), and because we're human, our will in daily things is often totally separate from each other's will.

I know that the phrase from 1 Cor - about becoming one spirit with God - can be understood as referring the metaphysical unity. But the word "spirit" for Paul means often our tendencies, our desires, agendas, feelings - doesn't it? So it might be that he meant the union of our desires with God's desire.
Btw, in Greek the phrase is "whoever joins with God, is one spirit with him" - so there's no "becoming" here... But it's in the context of physical union of man and woman in sexual intercourse, so it's rather not a metaphysical context, I suppose.
And - "spirit" - "pneuma" in Greek has for me little connotations with awareness or consciousness, because it means breath or wind. What we call consciousness would be Greek "nous" which Paul uses too, at times ("we have the nous of Christ", e.g.).

But, few months ago I had also a tendency to equal Christian unitive stage with Buddhist "one with everything", so I understand there are many similarities in the words and phrases used to describe both states.
 
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Good nuances and distinctions, Mt. There's no doubt that the Abrahamic religions have emphasized a relational paradigm, which implies the engagement of human reflective/intentional consciousness. Eastern-ish systems tend to focus on non-reflecting human consciousness, which cannot usually be known very deeply unless our reflective/intentional consciousness is diminished or calmed.

------

I'm delighted to see that Daniel Helminiak's marvelous explication of non-reflecting consciousness is available on Google books.
- see http://tinyurl.com/n6n5jv

Chapter 6 will now be assigned reading for anyone who wants to discuss enlightenment vs. contemplation and related issues. Wink (If you get bogged down, go to p. 69 and the section on "Source of Personal Identity," where he references Eastern systems.)

As you read through this, consider Adyashanti's statement, "The truth as That which always IS." Could be God, of course, but, just as likely, our own, human non-reflecting consciousness. For me to believe he's referring to God, I would have to know why it should NOT be taken as non-reflecting human spiritual awareness.
 
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Mt: Yes, I see what you mean. For St. Teresa this is an ontological change, whereas for the nondualists it is an epistemological change.

Another difference I found is this. St. Teresa says: "I repeat, it is necessary that your foundation consist of more than prayer and contemplation. If you do not strive for the virtues and practice them, you will always be dwarfs" (Interior Castle, VIII.4.9).

So for Teresa, virtues must be actively cultivated and practiced, whereas for Adyashanti they flow naturally from nondual consciousness.

But St. Teresa would also say the results are different. One who simply allows the virtues to flow is a dwarf compared with one who actively and intentionally practices them.
 
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Phil: I've seen you use that term "non-reflecting consciousness" before, but now I think I understand for the first time what you mean. It is "non-reflecting" in the sense that it doesn't "reflect" some object in the outside world -- correct? Rather, it is awareness of oneself as a perceiving subject.

I went out and bought a 3-CD set on meditation by Adyashanti, and here he talks about how this pure awareness ("non-reflecting consciousness") is prior to awareness of anything in particular. The book you mention makes the same point on page 62.

Somewhere on those CDs, Adyashanti suggests that going into the sense of "I am" leads to an encounter with the divine within us.

That's not so different from Teresa's statement, "The Lord puts the soul in this dwelling of His, which is the center of the soul itself" (Interior Castle, VII.2.9).
 
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For me non-reflecting is the same as non-thinking. Does Helminiak mean "to reflect" in the mirroring sense?

Derek, that is true that the deepest center of our soul ("I am") is a space where God touches the soul in contemplative graces, and the part of ourselves that is metaphysically one-with-God as with the Source. But the encounter Teresa describes is a gift from God, not a natural outcome of entering one's deepest self. Non-dualists don't accept a situation where one enters fully into one's own metaphysical depths but still isn't experiencing loving union with God. But it's happening all the time for Buddhist, Hindu and New Age masters.

Phil - following Maritain and Arraj - says that when we enter our true self there is a "contact with the Absolute", but it's not a relational, personal contact that we're given to feel in contemplative graces.
I must say that - in my limited experience, at least - it feels quite differently.

Today I noticed that if I'm intensely oriented towards God as Thou I lose contact with my non-reflecting, witnessing "I", but if God is not present contemplatively, the witnessing "I" comes back with its clarity and stillness.
So "I am" isn't necessarily the gate to the Trinity - the door opens from the other side, as father Keating used to say.
 
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