The Doorway to Ecstatic Freedom

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David: First, I’d like to thank SAND for the gracious invitation and opportunity to be with all of you.
Each person’s sadhana or journey to realization is a painstakingly unique event. Your realization cannot be substituted for by anyone else’s realization, and nature affords you the unique opportunity for this complete sense of self-actualization and Self-realization in your human birth. If you fail to attain that, then there’s no repeat chance. What I mean by that is that you are a unique flower, a beautiful, exquisite one-time happening in the universe. A time in which the universe has condensed into your form with such unique intensity that it is trying to realize itself in a one-time happening for all time. This is the sacred event of a human birth. Words like exquisite, preciousness, unbearable longing and sweetness come to mind when I think of what this process actually entails. Since it cannot be repeated or rehearsed, it’s painstaking in the sense that it’s a forged experiment on the part of nature bursting out of itself in an infinite reach to try to say something, which moves into an area whereby the attainment ultimately speaks to every being.

What begins as a personal search for self-liberation, Self-realization, with all the exquisite moments of samadhi and profound understanding that occur, this journey is ultimately a gift for others. That it’s a paradox in that the complete fulfillment of yourself turns out to be a profound offering to everyone and everything. So, it’s accurate to say that there is actually no sense of personal attainment in full realization. Realization, therefore, is not for the me even though it is the fulfillment of the me in every particle of being.

So, the body-mind makes its inherent claim upon existence through its desiring system, and in the authenticity of that desiring system, the human being learns to crave everything. It can crave everything as everything or it can desire everything as one thing. This is what allows for multiple paths toward the realized condition. In the case of searching through the specific toward the general, one engages the process of devotion. To search for everything in one thing is to engender the heat of devotion, which is unbearable longing for what you want. But to embrace the impersonal, which is equally auspicious, one searches for everything as everything. The latter results in nullification, the realization of negation which is pure meditation. And, the former, that which moves toward devotion, moves toward the ecstasy of Bliss, the ecstasy of the highest form of happiness.

So, you see you can move toward the Supreme State either within the expansion of your system of desire or through the transcendence of it. One path goes through relationship, the other through solitudiness and self-absorption. Both paths are beautiful. There’s no need to take sides and say this path is better than that path. But, within the context of a human life, realization demands so much concentrated energy and focus over so many years typically, that the quickest way is through a relationship with an external teacher. And, the reason why that is so is because it’s very easy to point all of your attention toward another finite embodiment such as yourself, whereas to try form a concrete relationship with that which is nonconcrete is a bit tricky. Are there any questions?

Participant 1: I know that it’s about Grace, but let’s say you wanted to put yourself going in the same direction as Grace. What would be the process steps to take to get close to enlightenment?

David: Grace is the condition that is absolutely required, most definitely. So, you are right in stating that. But what else might be necessary in terms of steps depends on the individual path chosen. Which lineage, if there is a lineage involved, or which individual teacher, if there’s a teacher involved. What the attainment of the teacher is, because there are different stages of realization and teachers often teach from multiple states of realization. There’s not just one standard state that is reached by everyone that is identical. Does that answer your question?

P1: I appreciate your advice about getting a teacher and I will do that, but in the meantime are there any steps or processes you suggest?

David: Work with diet. Work with meditation. Read the texts which appeal to you, which give you inspiration, increase devotion. And then, actually, I’m not advising you to take on a personal relationship with a teacher, just for clarification. You can do this on your own apart from teachers. It’s definitely possible. So, you ought to be the author of your own way. Make your own choices in freedom.

Participant 2: Hi, David. Traditionally, there’s been a debate going back perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years about non-duality, strict non-duality, versus some sort of devotional relationship. There are the Mayavattis and there are the Vaishnavites and they’ve been going at it for a long time. Yet, most of the non-dual teachers that we revere, Ramana, Shankara, Nisargadatta, Papaji, they were also extremely devotional people and you can read accounts of that through David Godman’s works and many others. So, I’m just making that point to offer you a springboard to elaborate a little bit more on the importance of devotion and perhaps how it is not necessarily incompatible with non-duality.

David: You can attain realization of the Self just through meditating, just by following the mind back to its origin. That’s the location of the non-dual condition. In the Vedic tradition, they call that experience samadhi. In Zen, they call it kensho or satori. And, there are other words from other cultures and traditions that call it different things. From my point of view, devotion is required even to attain Self-realization. Of course, there are once again different levels of consideration of devotion, and there can be highly internalized states of devotion, which are not directed toward a guru or toward a teaching, toward an icon, toward a scripture or a certain kind of embodied understanding. Then, there are more flamboyant forms of devotion, where you see devotees prostrating to teachers or to gurus, and so on, worshiping icons, dolls, figurines. The key is to do what you need to do in your own life to find that spark of hunger that actually moves into the realized state.

We’re not really having a discussion about devotion at this point, but authenticity, that you can’t remain a fake in this process. You can’t save face. So, you think or one might think, “Well, if I travel the path of Advaita, I don’t have to bow down so low.” You’re going to kiss the dirt if you get to the source of what Advaita talks about, and you’re going to be in the dust of non-existence, immersed in it, humiliated in it, turned back into the humus, into the earth, just as you would in completely loving a teacher to the depth of your being. You follow? Either way it's your termination. Choose your method. But this is a loving process. It’s not suicide. This is about loving to the fullest capacity to which you can withstand and then one step beyond that. In that disintegration of your own spiritual approach into the real, you finally get a taste of what you’ve been searching for. Without putting labels on it, you’ll know what it is.

Feel what’s happening in the room, please. Any other question? Don’t be shy.

Participant 3: Hello. I’m aware my present path is much more Advaita and the annihilation of self, and the discovery of that which I am, but also am not. And, that which I’m not is, most of the time, a rather fearful acknowledgement that I am not. But, there’s also an incredible…. Again, in the dirt it doesn’t matter. The dirt is grand and amazing in itself. Everything emerges as amazing in itself. And so, as I hear these two different paths, I recognize I’m pulled more toward the annihilation of self through the discovery of all, opposed to the discovery through. Can you address that as to why you think that might be?

David: Well, one is real, and one is unreal. Stay with the real. If one is not real to you, you don’t want to wonder about it and go after it casually, because you’ve heard good things about it. So, remain with what is. If what is for you is dissolution, and you’re having conscious dissolution of your identity, you’re doing very well. Make that happening graceful, and then extend it gracefully and with love so there’s no hankering after more. Try to understand that at the moment of dissolution you’ve achieved everything. But you’ll see that many moments of such dissolution are necessary to decondition the conditioned mind into wanting more, even into recognizing that that’s the ultimate condition. You have to go deeply enough into this disintegration of self to actually recognize it as an all-time reality. Yes?

P3: Yes, absolutely. Thank you.

David: Feel the Shakti in the room. That Shakti is Shiva’s consort. Shakti is not a phenomenal aberration preached by delusional devotional types like myself. Shakti is the feminine form of Shiva. Shiva is Absolute Being. Shakti is Absolute vibration. They are not different. They are not the same. What Shiva accomplishes in Consciousness through silence, Shakti accomplishes in radiant transmission. She is able to go through the physical body and to bring on the experience of Absolute Being, whereas, Shiva takes you through the subtle aspects of the mind and allows you to transcend your mind into your own pure Being. Shiva takes the inner route, and Shakti takes the external route. But, Shiva and Shakti are one, not two. The problem that has arisen in so many hundreds of years of men taking control of spiritual language is that they have tried to subvert god as woman and turn god into man, into pure maleness. This is why Shakti teachings have gotten a bad rap, because they are actually more effective than Shiva teachings. Because in a Shiva-based teaching, you have to rely on your own failed record for achievement, whereas with Shakti teachings, through the gift of radiant emanation, current, vibration, you can receive a kiss of the divine horizontally, horizontally. Shiva only knows the language of verticality, of dropping in, where Shakti takes also the path of ecstasy, of connecting transcendent Consciousness with ecstatic immersion in your own happiness. So, Bliss now also becomes a factor.

Bliss, current and light, these are the three major pathways toward realization. Light would signify the Advaita path, even though light is sometimes spoken of, for example, in Ramana Maharshi’s writings. He might talk about “The light of the Self.” He also talks about “The bliss of the Self.” He also talks about no bliss and no light. But, when I offer teachings, I put all of that in the category of the divine light approach. The divine love approach, which is transcendence through ecstasy, through drunkenness, inebriation (not on a substance, not through DMT) through the chemicals produced in your own nervous system as you go deeper into a felt process of profound recognition of the divine Being as your lover, as your lover. So, this also implies Tantra and a highly internally and sometimes externally eroticized approach toward the divine, the divine as your lover. And, the third basic area is the Kundalini-shakti area which is energy, raw primal current. If you’ve seen a beautiful vigorous California river like the Stanislaus River, for example, that’s a beautiful image for the way in which the Shakti moves as pure current. So, these three basic areas, non-dual recognition or divine light, divine love or ecstatic inebriation and remembrance of the divine, and Kundalini-shakti, transmission, current, vibration. These summarize the most likely traveled paths for human beings, and there are many teachings which occur in every category. You can have eight different divine light teachers all teaching different nuances of non-dual recognition.

Lovely intimacy. Yes.

Participant 4: As I’m experiencing the Shakti, I’m reminded of the images of the tsunami wave that came over Phuket and other places, and it’s like this wave just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming, and it feels like that to me. And, it’s sort of subtle and gentle in a certain way, but it just keeps coming and pushing through.

David: And, it splashes everywhere. It doesn’t actually end up in one location. If you’re wondering what this Shakti is, it’s a movement of the Self inside of itself. It’s a turbulence. What is the turbulence over? Beings emerge. Beings need to emerge out of activity. They can’t just magically appear out of silence. So, the Shakti is that incredible tsunami of energy inside of the Self as if the Self can’t bear that silence. So, you can only take so much silence, and then you burst in it. You can’t hold it anymore, because it’s going to break the container of your limitation. Once it breaks through and starts to flow, Shiva becomes Shakti. You become the Mother. You become the agent of the feminine, which is all about horizontality. So, as long as you can maintain that verticality you’re lucky, because you can retain your sanity for that long. And then, once the flood gates open, the flood gates of Shakti and Bliss, then it’s a whole different ball game.

P4: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.

David: You’re still in control in Self-realization. You've still got some remnant of a personal destiny which ends up in the ocean of impersonality. It’s still fairly predictable. That’s why if you've met someone in Self-realization, just in that state, they’re pretty self-contained, calm. They don’t care about anything. You can’t break their hearts. You can’t do anything to them because water cannot wet it. Fire cannot burn it. Wind cannot dry it. And, you can’t touch it either. But, in a sense, beyond that state, as you move toward the more ecstatic and embodied forms of realization, one in which the body is deeply involved with energy and devotion, then a new phenomenon arises.

P4: It feels like a profound quickening as I experience it.

David: But, again, a quickening to where?

P4: I don’t know where or what, but it's as if the energy is activating energies within my system.

David: Yes, your full potential. So, every avenue has to be wired to this high state, every avenue, every cell in the body until the whole body is on fire with the divine. Then, you know you've really got a good state. That’s a really solid state when you can bear that last transformation. If you want to read an interesting text which describes some of the later transformations in spiritual life, it was written by John of the Cross later in his life called “The Living Flame of Love.” He was a Roman Catholic mystic, and he paid dearly for his mysticism. They didn’t like what he had to say, but too bad for them. He talks about the incinerating process of the divine as you go into a highly unified state, and of course, it's devotion which has to take you there. If you want full unity, you have to go through devotion. That’s the bridge. You’ve got to activate the heart so that you have a recognition of what matter is. In Self-realization, who cares what matter is? Who cares about the world? No one cares. And, Ramana has a strong flavor of this in his teachings. “Who cares about the body? Who cares about the world?” There’s a strong undercurrent of not caring, of not having to care. But, once you begin to care, it’s a different story, and that takes a much more painstaking form of spiritual involvement with your own being. Not many people want to go there because there’s so much happiness that comes about when you realize who you are. It’s so delicious and beautiful, and you just want to stay in that calmness. But, there are some irrational types around, like Rumi and Kabir. They do things which aren’t predictable, and they start talking about being in love with everything. That creates a wrench in the system of silence. A wrench is thrown in that very pleasant peaceful lake of solitude, placid self-involvement, self-absorption, even self-transcendence.

Feel the Shakti. It’s beautiful. I hope you can feel it. I’m not implanting a hypnotic suggestion. It’s really happening for me. Yes. Someone else.

Participant 5: I’m very gratified to hear you talk about this horizontal aspect because I think the most significant opening I experienced was along that axis, and I don’t feel like anybody’s ever been able to tell me what the hell that was. It didn’t seem to fit into the models or the other experiences that I was hearing about. So, thank you. And, I’ve also been feeling like we have, particularly in this culture, we have a very strong terror of ecstasy. It feels like to me. Like that sort of just being willing to be uncontrolled, it feels very strong and the prospect of really….. Yeah.

David: But, you can’t laugh like I just laughed unless you go through that terror. Otherwise your laugh will be just hollow, superficial. It will just be about your own self, whereas you can laugh about everything when you get through the horizontal. And yet, you still suffer. Don’t let people kid you. There’s suffering always, either minor or major. I’m not justifying suffering, and I’m not suggesting you don’t go beyond it through profound absorption in meditation and in the Self. You must see what that is. There’s no way around that either. But, it’s a different kind of suffering when you come out, and you feel really like an instrument of the divine every second. You begin to serve in a way that is spontaneously selfless, something you can’t really know about in your own consciousness because if you could know about your own selflessness, it wouldn’t be the real thing. So, you’re reduced to a kind of profound innocence about the whole issue. You become radically unselfconscious, even totally identified with ignorance at the end. But, we don’t want to skip and go, rush too far. Let’s talk about what’s in between. We have about probably two minutes left

P5: If I may.

David: Go ahead, and then we have one other gentleman who wants to ask a question.

P5: I’ll be quick. The further I go, the more I seem to run up against this tendency to.... I think it’s just a defense mechanism, but mistrust of the teacher or mistrust of teachers in general.

David: I understand.

P5: My mind can pull in lots of examples.

David: But, you’d find something else to mistrust if there was no teacher involved. The mistrust doesn’t come from the teacher. It comes from your paranoia.

P5: That is the truth.

David: So, look, if you proceed on the path of realizing the impersonal, you’ll start going crazy in your own mind. You won’t trust your own mind and your ability to persevere through. Once you form a loving bond with a teacher who is benign, and there’s no such thing as a 100% benign teacher, just as there’s no such thing as a 100% danger-less voyage into the impersonal. People go mad on paths of impersonality. So, there’s risk there, too. There’s danger everywhere, just walking down the hall. Hopefully, it won’t be dangerous for you. But, the potential for danger…. We’re in California, earthquakes, planes are going overhead. Correct? Thank you very much.

David: Yes.

Participant 6: I have a question about teachers, especially about non-human teachers.

David: Non-human teachers.

P6: In shamanic traditions, you work with the spirit of a plant, or in general, immersion in nature. So, what is your opinion about this type of teacher?

David: See, I have not traveled that path myself, so I’m hesitant to speak on it. I don’t have any authority on that issue. But, do you want me to speculate? Will you accept it as speculation and as an exploratory topic? Certainly, you can get glimpses of great things and people have on plants. We can’t really deny that, because there’re accounts written, and just go on the internet and study it. For thousands of years, cannabis has been used in India by the Aghoris and other sects. It’s a plant, also. But, always understand that what you experience under the influence of a plant is something psychoactive. You’re experiencing the introduction of an external agent, right? And, I’m not judging it. I’m just saying that’s what it is. Where it’s highly questionable what’s happening here with us, if you’re enjoying some sort of sublime connection with me this afternoon. It’s just a question to be raised. Are they the same thing, or are they different? I don’t really have an answer to that. But, I certainly wish everyone well and want everyone to find the ultimate state of reality, however they do it. That’s my last caveat. I really bless everyone to find their own way.

Participant 7: Thank you so much for sharing the Shakti. This question about humiliation and danger is here. My experience with teachers, in what feels like maybe the Western development of non-dual teachings, there feels like maybe a lack of humiliation or a fear of filleting the ego or risking the sort of embarrassment or shock.

David: You’ll become embarrassed by yourself, by what you are. You don’t need anyone else to really create it as an effect in a teaching. You’ll just see what you are, and that will help you to surrender.

P7: So, you don’t feel like teachers necessarily need to take on that responsibility?

David: Absolutely not. Not the way I teach. I never humiliate anyone. In fact, I'd rather be humiliated than humiliate. Forceful teachers and teachings scare me. When anyone begins to take on spiritual power and exhibit it as an attribute of a teaching, I find that very disturbing, such as disciplining people, overworking people in the name of seva and so on. I’m outraged by it, actually. You know, promising people the accumulated merit of their own self-sacrifice, I find that all abhorrent. Because for me, the spiritual process is a natural process having to do with opening your heart in love and trusting. That’s what it has become for me. That’s what is evident to me is that you can’t really open until you trust, and you can’t trust until you love, and you can’t love until you trust. So, however you do it, trust in your own self. Trust in nature and its goodness. Trust in life. Trust in your guru. Just know that every guru is a human being, whether they are Avatars, sat gurus. I’ve been around all of them, yogis, yoginis, tantric yoginis. I’ve met many of these kinds of people, and I have never failed to see a strong human element in all of them. I’ve observed anger in the most revered and highly respected teachers on the planet today, dangerous displays of anger which frightened me. So, instead of becoming cynical and jaded and saying, “Well, nobody is enlightened,” as many people do. “All teachers are crap. I’m going to just pray to god,” whatever that means. I was humbled by that, and in awe of the fact that almost any nut can become realized, and that makes me guard over myself with even more vigilance as much as I possibly can about how I interact with other human beings. Not that I’m some kind of great guy, don’t imagine that because that’s not true. I’m just like you. But, within the context of these activated agencies of Bliss, ecstasy, divine silence that I operate in, there’s a certain type of power that inadvertently accrues around me even though I don’t want it. So, I have to be very careful to be more kind, more tempered, more humble even than I’m capable of being. So, I’m always pushing myself on the level of my personality to offer people the very best if I can. Now, I don’t always succeed. I make mistakes, but that does not necessarily de-validify my presence as a teacher. Remember, if you do this on your own, you’re going to have to grapple with your own unstable psychology. So, there’s a risk there. Do you want to be in your own hands? I don’t know. Take your pick. Do you want to be in my hands or yours? Good luck. It’s your choice, and there’s no other choice, either me or someone else.

P7: Thank you.

David: I do not assume infallibility. I assume perfection, but not infallibility. So, perfection just means the complete operation of the divine realization as it is giving its own teachings. But, you still have to grapple with this two-armed and two-legged form up here who might make a mistake with a word, say the wrong thing and so on. Do you follow? Don’t you have these issues in your own life? Does this sound familiar? So, this is a real tricky thing if you want to proceed through a teacher, and you believe a teacher has impeccable, perfect, and stainless realization. Just what constitutes an intelligent relationship with that being? Somehow, you have to find your comfort zone. Some people will go into very high states of devotion over the fact that they believe their teacher is, and might in fact be, stainlessly impeccably realized. What do I mean by that? It means that the Self is capable of displaying itself undiluted to the point where realization can be shared from the heart of the teacher right to the heart of the student. But, what constitutes an intelligent relationship with that being has to do with your limitations in devotion and the way in which you want to offer yourself. And, my theory is that the best working basis is to allow people to come forward and find their own way and approach in a safe context, a teacher. Now, here, I can only speak about myself because I’m not speaking about comparative spiritual teachings. I’m not doing comparative religious studies. I’m just thinking out loud with you, so you can overhear many of the conversations I’ve had with myself in my own mind.

Do you see how intimate this has become in just a span of forty minutes? I really feel like I’m sitting with each one of you individually, as though we’re in a room having tea somewhere just you and me. We’re having a quiet conversation. And, that’s how you begin to trust and open, when you know it’s one-on-one and that the divine is involved. It’s not just a human personality occupying a body-mind just like yours functioning from the level of the superficial personality. This is very different. This cuts right through into a kind of nakedness, and in that nakedness one becomes exposed naturally. So, I hope you feel some of the love, also some of the warm feeling that’s in the room, not just Kundalini-shakti, not just the silence of Being, but also the love of the innocence of Being itself, just the love that that produces, sweet, and soft, tender.