Falling into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering
Publisher: Boulder CO: Sounds True, 2011
Adhyashanti trained under a Zen master for fourteen years; then, at his teacher’s request, he began teaching spiritual seekers. Though his training was in Zen Buddhism, he says, “If you filter my words through any tradition or ‘-ism,’ you will miss altogether what I am saying.” His teachings are a spontaneous expression based in his experience. He writes, “The liberating truth is not static; it is alive…. The truth lies beyond all forms of conceptual fundamentalism.”
He teaches that “What you are is the beyond – awake and present, here and now already. I am simply helping you to realize that.” The most any spiritual teacher can do is to give you some tips and tell you that spiritual realization is possible; the teacher cannot walk the path for you. “To think that you’re going to ride on the coattails of some spiritual teacher to enlightenment is a great delusion.” He goes further: “One way to evaluate whether a spiritual teaching is a skilful one or not is by seeing if it helps you listen to your own inner wisdom.” It is your own inner wisdom that will “tell you if you’re getting a little off balance, a little too far left or a little too far right off the path. A true spiritual teaching will never take away anyone’s autonomy; it won’t require us to give away our good sense.” Therefore, “A true teacher will always be trying to give your authority back to you as fast as you can receive it – and without becoming egoically self-centred again.”
He says that the purpose of any spiritual path, no matter how it is conceptualized, is to free us from suffering. The root cause of all the suffering and confusion that beset us is the “egoic state of consciousness.” According to Adhyashanti, it is our own stream of thought that generates egoic consciousness. This stream of thought narrates, explains, interprets, and evaluates all of life, giving us the sense that we are separate from all that is, that we are its judge. With just a little observation of our own minds we will see that believing our own thoughts is a form of insanity. Thoughts arise out of nowhere and disappear into nothingness. Yet, rather than observing the mind’s movements,we go into what he calls a “trance,” following our thoughts as if they were truth itself. This unconscious, trance-like state is the root cause of all suffering, keeping us in a state of conflict.
The greatest generator of conflict, both internal and external, is our addiction to interpreting and evaluating each and every moment of our experience. When we continually judge and evaluate, we separate from what’s happening. We feel a certain distance from our experience, because now we have become the evaluator of the moment and we’re no longer in unity with the flow of existence and of life.
When we disagree with what is happening, or feel unhappy about past events or worry about the future, Adhyashanti calls it “arguing with life.” Life simply unfolds as it does, without regard to our mental construct. “When we argue with life, we lose every single time – and suffering wins.”
Any way that we make a construct out of life, any way that we come to conclusions in our mind about what is or what was or what will be, we are narrowing our experience of life. They are all ways that we argue with what is. Any time you argue with what was, what is, or what will be, you limit your ability to experience the vastness of who you are.
If we resist the urge to believe our mind’s explanations and judgments, we will face the challenge of not-knowing, of facing the unknown.
In order to see through the mind and the deeply ingrained sense of separation that continues to generate so much confusion and suffering in our lives, we must take a chance; we must leave what we know and enter that mysterious reality of the unknown…. You may feel very exposed when you open yourself to this inner space of unknowing, but really, the unknown is our only doorway.
We will realize we don’t know even who we are. If we dare to enter this state of unknowing, we become aware of a presence:
If you stop in this place of not knowing who you are, if you resist the temptation to conceptualize an identity, you’ll begin to touch a lived sense of an inner presence. You’ll open to what I call an “alive, pregnant nothingness.” This is not a “nothingness” that is blank or absent of any qualities, but rather one that is extraordinarily vital and rich with potential.
Unknowing offers us the invitation to listen to the silence within:
When we begin to see that our mind is just a storyteller, … we begin to listen – not for more thoughts or more complicated understandings, but for the silence. It is when you listen in this way that you can see that it is only your mind that has the capacity to make you suffer…. Only the mind, nothing else. It’s all an inside job.
For Adhyashanti, this inner silence is the key to awakening. He equates the silence itself with listening: “Because isn’t that what silence is? It’s a listening. It’s a deep, wordless listening.” Adhyashanti clarifies that the inner stillness he is speaking of does not come from shutting out all the activity and turmoil of the world. Rather, “it’s a stillness of inclusion, a kind of stillness that embraces everything.” Through giving attention to the silence within:
We find a capacity to open to a new state of consciousness. At first, it’s just experienced as a state of stillness, the foretaste of awakened consciousness, where a presence begins to reveal itself. If you allow yourself to relax into this stillness… you can awaken out of the belief and experience of separation.You start to see … a mysterious grace that permeates everything…. By that I mean that a certain mysterious quality reveals itself and cradles us within an intimacy with all of existence. This is something that many people are looking for without even knowing it. Almost everyone is looking for intimacy – a closeness, a sense of union with God or whatever their concept of higher reality is.
We come to “know in the core of our hearts that everything really is one in essence, that there really is that which connects us all as a single whole,” to “realize that what we have always yearned for is the very thing, in our deepest source, that we have always been.”
Adyashanti talks of “falling into grace” when we stop holding ourselves separate and aloof from it.
We begin to fall into the grace of a different dimension of being…. It is as if this new way of looking at things has always been there, but we weren’t ever quite able to access it. This newfound perception is grace, where we receive and experience something that arrives from beyond the way we normally perceive life.
According to Adhyashanti, “The most essential aspect of meditation, what meditation really is or can be, is a relinquishing of control .”
Meditation, in this sense, is really a state of discovery. Sitting in quiet and stillness and just being in a state of openness…. We can begin to let go of our conflict with what is…. Through resting in this way, we enter a state of non-resistance, where we’ll be able to have a taste of what is it like to live for a moment without judgment or conflict. With this as a foundation, it then becomes easier to access these moments of stillness and to let go of the illusion that we have of control in our lives.
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