An interview with Éric Baret
Montreal, September 20, 1999
Having experienced moments of clarity, people then look for a way to remain permanently established in the state of awareness, only to find that it is impossible. In their search, they read sacred texts, go to meet wise men, study for many years with a great guru, meditate, do pranayama, yoga, change their diet, their habits, etc. But my experience and that of my friends has clearly shown that despite all this, one quickly reaches a point of saturation and seems to stagnate for years, even decades. It seems as if the thirst has not been quenched. As if something essential has been overlooked : could it be what is known as "grace" ? What is grace, where does it come from and how does it operate ?
There are many parts to this question. Let's first answer the last part. If we can talk about it, if we can understand it, and if it comes from somewhere, we cannot call it grace. Grace, according to the traditional approach, cannot be observed objectively. It arises of itself, from itself and it cannot come from anywhere but the heart. It is not dependent on activity nor can it be comprehended by the limited human mind. Nothing more can be said about it than that.
To come back to the beginning of the question, it is a good observation that first there is an insight and then there is a sadhana. The insight does not consist of seeing our true nature, for this is impossible, "being" can never be experienced; the insight is of what we are not. We see our mechanisms, our arrogance, our fears, our limitations, very clearly without experiencing any desire to change them. Facing these facts is an act of humility. Seeing clearly what we are not is what, in the East, is referred to as insight of what we are. It is important this be clear, because most people fantasize, think or visualize an insight of what they are, rather than an insight of what they are not.
Sadhana was never intended, at least according to the Kashmir Shaiva Tradition, to bring you back anywhere, because what has come without any cause, without any sadhana, is without cause. The first insight came unwanted or unasked for and nothing can make it come back. The whole process is determined by life. Sadhana is seen in the Kashmir Tradition as an expression of this insight, not as a way to come back to it. Otherwise it is yoga, in the dynamic sense, which is the core of a senseless idea that more can be created from less, a democratic fantasy. Sadhana is the art of expressing silence in everyday activities, that is to say expressing this evidence on the level of body and mind. That is why all the arts in the East are seen as sadhana: dancing, poetry, the art of war, the art of love. In India, music is sadhana for a musician; for a servant activity is sadhana; for a widow life without her husband is sadhana. All expressions of life can be seen as sadhana, can be seen to express this conviction that life is not about doing, acquiring or getting something.
There was a moment of availability in which this was clearly evident.
The awakening of energy and such things are an expression of consciousness on the mind and body level. The phenomenal plane cannot attain consciousness, but it can be enlightened by it : you can realize that your body and mind don't exist on the same level as your understanding, as your convictions. You see how much aggression, fear and desire fill the whole body structure and the mind with strategies. Then you knowingly tune your body-mind to reflecting this insight, this openness, to discovering the space within you.
Again, the technical part is not to create this openness, but to realize that we are not open. You can only feel how tense your body is, and silently observe it. In this silence, the body tensions are released and return to stillness. You realize how much you use the mind to express your will, and how much it is engaged in fears and strategies. You quietly observe it. Nobody asks you to like it or dislike it, to think that you should be different. You live with the facts: I am arrogant, pretentious, all this resonates within me now. I no longer aim at being different tomorrow. I lucidly recognize my limitations. In that very moment, when you see your limitations clearly, they can slowly dissolve into openness.
You cannot deliberately progress towards an open state, you can only see clearly that you are in a blocked state. So, you let your body-mind slowly become more open to your conviction that you can attain nothing. That you are going to die in total stupidity. You may die in the very next moment, so there is no time to reach anything, to achieve anything. In sadhana you live with the feeling that you are going to die the very next minute; thus, you no longer make strategies and you just do things for the sake of doing them. If you think that you will die within two minutes, what do you do ? Nothing. You don't call anybody, you don't think of anything, you just totally enjoy seeing, feeling, smelling, listening to the last seconds of your life, the beauty of life.
Sadhana is this feeling. You sit for the joy of sitting, you do yoga for the joy of doing yoga, you sing for the joy of singing. There is no time and life is too beautiful and goes too fast to have time to achieve anything. The slightest intention, like doing yoga because tomorrow you are going to get better, will not work : you may die before tomorrow. You go to satsang because it resonates in you now. You do yoga because grace calls you to do it; you take aim with your bow, you sing, but never with the feeling that you can reach anything. You do everything for the shear beauty of it. Your life becomes your sadhana. Situations are only what we project them to be. Each possesses its own beauty when we don't ask it to be anything other than what it is. You become imminently practical, without any goal, or intention. That is the message of the Gita, when Krishna asked Arjuna to do what needed to be done and to put aside his likes and dislikes. It is of no psychological consequence that his master and parents are to be fought on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. So Arjuna does it because it has to be done. There is no future, no intention; he is just acting functionally. That is the meaning of sadhana from the traditional, non-dual point of view.
It seems that such grace often happens to people who never actively look for it. Are there some people more qualified than others to receive grace or does it just happen at random to poor unsuspecting people ?
If it seems to fall at random on people, it is because we don't observe closely. People who live according to grace may seem to have lived a very simple life, but I think it is their humility or our lack of clarity that makes it seem like that.
It is our lack of clarity that prevents us from seeing that people we imagine to be entitled to grace because they make huge efforts in sadhana, are in fact totally caught up in the becoming process. They live in a state of constant tension, in wanting to become something, wanting to be free. In wanting, there is no room for anything. Wanting to be free, wanting to be rich, to be beautiful, to have a red car, all amount to exactly the same thing. There simply is no room for anything in wanting. The few people who have been audacious enough to describe the descent of grace have all said that at that moment they were just silent and quiet.
Jean Klein said that he watched a bird on the Marina Drive in Bombay. Virgil realized that there was no rush to do anything. It only strikes in a moment of not knowing, not asserting; it can never strike in a moment of expectation, where there is waiting or a desire to attain something. Anybody seeking grace can only come to see his limitations. For those who are humble enough to recognize how undeserving they are of grace, who feel their inability to stop the dynamics that motivate them, who realize they are totally unworthy of grace because they constantly live in a state of expectation, this clear vision is itself grace. Nothing happens. When I believe that because I do yoga, because I meditate, or do this or that, I should come to grace, then it is extremely pretentious on my part. It is very clear that grace does not result from activity. Of course, in a profound sense everything is grace: looking for grace and looking for money is carried by grace itself. It is what we need. We should not change our lives: if one wants to do yoga, if one wants to earn money, one should go ahead. We just need to see that our motivations come from our lack of clarity. At some point we simply no longer expect anything from activity. We simply do for the sake of doing. Grace is nothing other than this becoming totally obvious. It is not seeing a white elephant or the full form of Vishnu; it is seeing how pretentious we are. There can never be anything else but that, that is the ultimate seeing. Wanting to see God is a fantasy.
Then what point is there in making any effort ? Even if we have no goal, we will move in some direction or another, and we may call this " effort ". Does it make any difference whether we just hang out with friends and watch TV, or attempt to become satvic, live in a very pure environment and read sacred texts? Is there any difference in the end ?
Only for the one who projects. All values are only our values. Maharaja lived in very tamasic surroundings, ate meat, and he lived in freedom. Some people live in an ashram and are very pure, but they live in fear and expectation. So things have no value. For someone living next door to a musician, playing the piano for an hour everyday day is an effort, but for the musician it is not an effort. If it is an effort, he is not a musician. Someone who does yoga and knows that he is doing yoga, is not doing yoga; for in yoga there is no room for knowledge, it is only feeling. If you are making an effort, if it is an effort to meditate, then it is total nonsense. At some point, the effort is to watch TV, not to meditate. Things come naturally. Some foods attract you more than others, some friends attract you more than others, some music more than others, some spaces more than others: it is totally functional and none is better then the other. For many people the battlefield could be a place of grace, where they realize their fear and what they really are made of. For some others, this place is meditation. Grace is to be found where volition, and pretense end. When we think we are making an effort, when we claim we are doing something, there is no room for grace. Realize that there is no doer. It is not for me to choose to do yoga or not. I just witness it. If I do yoga, I do yoga ; if I don't do yoga, I don't do yoga. How can I change my life ? I can not change anything. I am a witness to the fact that I am drawn to live in the Himalayas, that I am drawn to live in a hotel, in a ballroom. To think that one is better than an other makes absolutely no sense. They are just different life styles. We all need different encounters so as to mature. In order to mature, some people need to meditate, whereas others need to do drugs or to go at war.
Lord Himself. When I see that I am nothing: there is only the Lord. Then grace can be said to be forefelt. To believe that I should be somewhere other than in a concentration camp is wishful thinking, a judgement. For Jacques Lusseyran, Auschwitz was his grace. For some people, yoga is a grace, but for most people it is pure delusion. For most people doing sadhana is an illusion; it brings sorrow and leaves them dissatisfied. It will not bring them anything, especially if they expect something from it. They end up saying that they didn't get what they wanted. That is their problem. If I believe I need to do this, or that, or to read sacred texts, I'm in for big trouble, I'm in for feeling lonely, separate, because I am looking for myself where I am not. Of course I feel unloved, misunderstood, experience difficulties. When I come back to myself, I realize I was looking in the wrong direction, I was trying to find myself in my body-mind. I acknowledge this lack of understanding. I accept it lucidly ; I cannot think otherwise. What remains is resonance: I'm present. I'm not present to something, I'm simply present. I find happiness here, once I no longer believe it is somewhere else. Thinking that I must do this or do that is simply a story. If I have to move one millimeter, it is of no interest to me. What I want is none other than what I have. If I look deep inside myself, I don't have to make a single movement. Anything that I can find outside myself, I may loose. I go nowhere, I stay where I am. If I'm in jail I stay in jail, if I'm in an ashram I stay in an ashram, if I'm at home I stay at home. Out there, there is nothing waiting for me. To think that there is anything other than what is here right now is a total fantasy and it prevents grace from being felt.
Sometimes people decide that they are going to meditate at such and such time, for a set amount of time. What is the value of meditation as a deliberate practice ?
Its only value is to create a sense of separateness from what is not "meditation". It cuts one off from life. There cannot be any intent in meditation. Meditation calls to you, you don't call it. It is like asking something of a teacher: it is an insult to the teacher. The teacher tells you what he needs to tell you : you just keep your mouth shut and listen. You don't ask him anything. If you ask him, there is no room for an answer, because you are full of expectations. When with a teacher, you just listen; you ask nothing. In the absence of asking, in the absence of grabbing, there is space for the teaching to be expanded upon. Of course the teacher we talk about can be called "life" too. Meditation calls to you at certain moments of the day. You have completed one activity and you are not yet engaged in another one: you sit quietly, or you lie down quietly, or you stand on your head quietly. You just face what is here now. Immediately your body becomes the obvious object of observation. First, you encounter the gross elements: fear, anxiety, heaviness, tension. These dissolve rapidly into vibration, into light, into heat. What remains is a feeling of space, of vibrating light, and it resonates in your silence, in your presence. You are happy, you have no needs, you have no future. Meditation calls to you.
But to meditate has meaning only if you have the same attitude towards it as you have towards going to the toilet in the morning. You don't do it to get enlightened. You do it because it is natural, like when you wake up, you go to the toilet, you brush your teeth, you take some water in your mouth, you chew it, and you spit it out. It is totally normal. You have nothing to do at four in the morning. If like most people you have neighbours you cannot make any noise. If you are sane of mind, you don't turn on an artificial light ; for this would be an insult to beauty. You don't want to burn down your house with a candle, therefore you don't light one, therefore you cannot read. Nor will you put on any music because the neighbours are psychopathic. Your dog is still sleeping, your wife lives with the fantasy of having a husband. You have time on your hands. What can you do ? Nothing! So, you remain still.
The normal position for a happy body is the sitting position, so you sit. You don't meditate, you just don't do anything. The moment the thought "I meditate" comes, it is pure fantasy. Why do you stay there, why don't you do something else ? It all comes back to exactly the same thing. You never meditate; you are just receptive to whatever presents itself, to the body feeling. There is nothing to think about. You are brought back to this resonance, to this openness. You will feel the sun rising in your openness, and then you go on with your life. But meditating every morning and knowing that you are meditating is like trying to be humble for half an hour. Jean [Klein] used to say that meditating is like somebody who does not want to take a train. If you don't want to take the train, you dont have to do anything about it. You just don't take the train! If your life is such that you live in a peaceful country free from war, if you live alone, if your dog is dead, then in the morning you find yourself regularly going to the toilet, brushing your teeth and sitting: it is just a matter of being practical. After that, some people will do some exercises life is movement called yoga. But to think that at six o'clock I must meditate is just like thinking that at six o'clock I must not take the train. There is nothing to be done about it. In a certain sense it may even cut us off from real meditation, that is to say those moments in life when silence beckons to us.
It reminds me of a friend of mine who became a famous guru. Another friend went to see him and told me : "I feel that he has reached some silence but that silence hasn't reached him " I thought this was a particularly bright comment about this "realized" friend. If you meditate with a purpose, at a certain time, you may reach silence, but silence will never reach you. True meditation envelops you in silence. It can happen at any time, when you are making love, drinking, watching TV. So when you feel silence enveloping you, there is no more TV for you, there is nothing else, just silence. So, you give yourself to this silence more and more often. If it happens in the morning, it is beautiful. When our lives are in harmony, we wake up from deep sleep, not from the dream state. Normally, in the morning, there is a kind of humility left over from deep sleep, a call to remain still. You can call it meditation; in the Kashmir Tradition, they just call it living in a natural way. But if one goes into the dream state after deep sleep, of course meditation has to come as a decision, because in the dream state we are already in the becoming process. Living harmoniously you go from deep sleep to meditation or the waking state. So, in a certain way you acknowledge the waking state, the light, the physical world, from the point of view of deep sleep, from the point of view of silence.
The duration of meditation is irrelevant. You cannot "meditate for one hour" nor for one second. But the body lives according to certain rhythms. If one has the chance to eat regularly, to sit regularly, to sleep at the same time each day, in a certain way it may become more easily evident to you that meditation does not depend on a sitting position. But very few people are lucky enough to always eat at the same time and sleep at the same time. So, for a yogi to sit at two in the morning is not a practice, it is just what happens. There is nothing to it. When you become old and weak, you wake up later ; nothing is lacking. When I met Jean Klein, he used to sit in the morning from three to eight, doing yoga, pranayama and meditation. Later on, he was confined to a wheelchair and he could not do it any more, but nothing was any different. There are just moments in life when the body is ready to sit regularly and can thus express the beauty of life, provided the sitting is effortless. If there is somebody to make love with, if there is a fight to be fought, if there is something else to be done, it is all exactly the same. You should not strive or push to do it. It resonates, it comes from inside. When a musician feels a calling for music, he gets up at five oclock and he writes music. It is for the joy of the music. Sitting is purely for the joy of sitting. Otherwise it is reduced to this fascist fantasy as in the Zen tradition, where you want to attain something. This led to Soto and Rinzai involvement in the Manchurian and Second World wars. The contributions of the Zen monasteries to the fascist expression of the Japanese army in China were sustained by the Zen attitude of wanting to reach satori, to do zazen. This was very clearly an example of wanting to "do meditation". It is a form of war, it creates war, if it is done with the slightest intention. If it is something you don't know about and you are just drawn to sit happily and later on you are happy swimming, it is beautiful.
In the Kashmir Tradition, effort seems to be considered not as a means to getting somewhere, as you explained, but more as a symptom of the absence of grace. Different "ways" are described: the way of Shiva (shambavopaya), the way of the energy (shaktopaya), and the way of the individual (anavopaya). There is also a fourth, which is a non way (anupaya). The Vijñana Bhairava Tantra describes techniques that appeal to the imagination, and to the ability to visualize. Whoever practices these techniques is trying to enter the gap in-between two perceptions, two thoughts, or two moments. What is the value of such bhavana ?
The exercise states are poorly understood. It is like talking about a sage. The Indian tradition uses symbols extensively, so they describe the sage as being free from cold, free from heat, like in the Yoga Sutra. He doesn't move, he doesn't do this, he doesn't do that. It is symbolic. It is never something you can ever attain, it does not pertain to an achievement. He is what he is when there is no longer any claim to owning anything.
All the exercises presented, maybe because badly translated, seem to be an attempt to attain something. According to what I have been taught, they are in fact the opposite : they are an attempt to make you realize that you are constantly denying the space in-between thoughts, in-between perceptions, that you are constantly visualizing your body in heaviness, that you are constantly identifying yourself with feelings. So, when they tell you to visualize the blue sky and identify with it, it is to enable you to see that you constantly do the opposite. When somebody says : "See how you feel on the battlefield, when somebody runs after you; feel the fear, then the beauty of Bhairava will occur", it is so as to show you how much you immediately identify yourself with your emotions. Thus, there is openness, availability to the emotion : you realize you are not the emotion, the emotion is in you. You are not afraid, you feel fear. That is the essence of Bhairava's activity. So, it is not so much something we need to do as a "clin doeil" from and to our ever present freedom. All these exercises can be approached in this way.
When you come to the anupaya, the ultimate way, you see that everything is expression. Every sensation, every feeling, every thought which comes to us, if we acknowledge them for what they are, manifests in this openness. If we identify ourselves with them: "I am afraid, I am tired, I am rich, I am poor", they cut us off from the essential. The Vijñana Bhairava practice brings you back to the fact that in every situation the space is there, when we don't pretend it is not by locating ourselves in a situation. It is more an inward activity, an inward exercise, of seeing that we are constantly caught up in our imagination, constantly pretending. When we don't, what remains is the essence.
Having said that, when somebody clearly realizes that he cannot realize anything but his own projections and limitations, and he has been clearly touched by this non experience, one can say: "turn your head". But it is only possible when somebody has already seen this pretense. In that moment, it strikes, not as something to be done but as what is.
What do you mean by "turn your head" ?
It means you must realize that you can never look, that everything looks at you, that you are the space where perception happens. There is nobody looking, there is only looking. So, once this has come alive, "turn your head", or "step back", resonate as a trigger to awareness, awareness that it is not a memory. These pertain only to clarity. That is why, even if it seems as if there is something to be done, and if it seems that there are levels of varying depth, they are only levels of understanding.
On the first level, the person really lives in the becoming process. He is trying to become enlightened, to reach something and he doesn't know what. Then the person becomes a little bit more humble and realizes that what he thinks cannot lead him to truth. He opens up to feeling. Energy is feeling, feeling is energy. He asks his feelings to bring him back to the resonance. But too bad, this doesn't work either. So, humility grows a little more and he realizes that nothing he can ever feel, or think, can ever take him beyond seeing and feeling. At that very moment, he falls silent, not out of will, but because faced with the clear evidence that he can never attain what is unattainable. In that moment, the third way, the way of Shiva, appears, which is wonderment. So, every perception is pure wonderment, because you realize that there has never been any such thing as perception. There is only being. I don't perceive anything. I am everything. So, even the idea of perceiving leaves you totally. We never perceive anything, we are what we perceive, on the essential level ; this fact never becomes a thought. That is why Ibn' Arabi said: "The one who has seen God and knows he has seen God hasn't seen God."
These things are not to be practiced, they are to be lived in humility, in silence. Then they really come alive. Anyone who undertakes them with the idea of attaining something will always remain restricted by limitations, like the kaivalya state of the Yoga Sutras, where the Purushas separate themselves from limitations and finally remain separate Purushas. Ultimately there is only silence, so there can never be any personal achievement of freedom. Of course, kaivalya, from the higher point of view, the one Gopinath Kaviraj talks about, is different. The kaivalya of the Yoga Sutras is a highly satvic state, but it is still a state one can attain.
The state Patanjali describes in his Yoga Sutras is a state that appears after all samskara (the compelling mental impressions left by previous experiences) have dissolved.
Yes, that is why it is a state, it has an opposite. Freedom is a space in which all samskara can arise and fall away: all samskara have their roots in kaivalya. Avidya (ignorance) has its roots in vidya (knowledge), avidya never existed. The snake has its roots in the rope.
The concept of mantra has been discussed for thousands of years and very often the practice of repeating a mantra is introduced as meditation. What is a mantra and what value is there in repeating it ?
I can only talk from intuition, for I have not experimented with mantra. It is a highly sophisticated technique that requires mastering all the gutturals, all the Sanskrit letters, through years of study in a specialized place. If you have lived in Varanasi and have studied the roots of Sanskrit, learned to pronounce the words properly, words are power. The power is vibration. So the mantra is like yoga. First you hear and feel the resonance. In yoga, you first feel the body and the resonance. This brings you back to vibration free of becoming. You become still. The mantra stills the mind, as the bodywork stills the mind. The mind is no longer deluded by the feeling of becoming realized, becoming free, doing mantra or doing yoga. You just realize your own inept condition, you stop imagining that stupidity can bring you knowledge. So, you fall totally silent. The mantra can bring you to silence and when you are silent life speaks.
In the Kashmir Tradition, the functional part of mantra is strongly emphasized. As in yoga, where every position has an effect on body, mind and feeling, every pranayama has an effect on these too, so every mantra, every seed mantra, every letter of the mantra, has an effect on body, mind and feeling. So, certainly by developing this knowledge it takes years one can locally affect the functions of the body, certain levels of the brain, of the feelings, certain levels of deep resonance and particularly certain levels of the breath. Breath is energy, energy is breath. The magic of words is intimately linked with breath and like pranayama, mantra can be used to enter into the world of magic. You realize that every form is a song, a vibration and by knowingly tuning in to certain shapes, certain rhythms of the breath, you can interact with all the possibilities of the universe. This is what magic is. It unravels free of cause and purpose.
There is nothing there, as such, and generally it is mostly a waste of energy. For if we feel any inclination to interfere with life, body, mind or the word, we don't yet clearly see that there is nothing missing, that the heart is peaceful and joyful when we no longer imagine that we need something. So the inclination to interfere with the word, the body, the mind and the senses, and to do something as an act of magic, is generally a lack of clarity: it means that the yogi feels that God has made a little mistake which he must correct by his magic. There is no mistake, there is nothing to correct. People who die should die, people who are born should be born. The yogi should keep his mouth shut. If he doesn't, in a certain way he will pay the price.
If clarity is not there beforehand, the still mind will be an object. There is no more emotion, no more thinking, but you are still there, as thought. If it is evident that what we are is not a thought therefore thought cannot disturb what we are if this is understood before the practice of mantra or yoga, then, in a way, these are beautiful ways of sustaining this understanding. But the idea of attaining something with mantra or with yoga comes from the modern degenerate mind, which thinks that man can reach God. It is quite the opposite. The mind is halted and the word of God, the mantra, speaks in the body, the breath of God breathes in the body if you do pranayama, God sings in you if you are a musician, the shape of God takes form in you if you are an architect.
It comes to you, it is not something you can master and put in your pocket. When you fall silent and if you are made for it, if life has prepared you enough for it, you can sustain the power of mantra, of pranayama, or the power of music. If one receives it without having been prepared enough, mantra and pranayama may, in a way, destroy ones whole structure. But even then, it would not be a mistake, because what happens has to happen. As for the technical part, I have no right to say anything, because I haven't done it. It takes thirty years to discover yoga, and I'm sure it is the same with mantra. Technically, the mantra is not pronounced out loud, it is inside. Pronouncing it out loud, is a preparation, it takes years. It is like yoga postures that prepare you for the inner subtle body postures.
So, in a way, we could say that all these meditation techniques, pranayama, yoga, exercises, repeating mantra, reading scriptures, is like what Shankaracharya said about the scriptures: "Before one is realized, one cannot understand them, and afterwards they are not needed."
It is like that in a way. Jean Klein said that he could only understand sexual intimacy after his freedom. Before that, he was always very interested in the subject, he had sexual relations with women but it was a mystery to him. It is after he realized what the body really was that he could really understand Tantra and the relationship between two bodies. He said that before that, he had had a glimpse of it, because of yoga and because of his intelligence, but it was only afterwards when he realized that the body was nothing, that he could understand what physical relationship was. So, all the traditional arts can only be understood from the forefeeling of silence. You can only listen to music or watch dance from stillness. One cannot really do mantra, yoga or anything, as long as one pretends to be the doer. Of course, it is clearer in the traditional arts, because they are created for the sole purpose of bringing this very fact to light.
What comes directly from purity is beauty. When somebody recites a mantra it is beauty, joy, and it is the same with yoga, dance, making a temple, reciting poetry. Traditional art is done for the sake of beauty, not as a means of reinforcing the fantasy of being enlightened. Projections of being enlightened or being superman are the same fantasy. So, there are no more problems with women, no more problems with money, no more problems with the body, no one is disturbed by the neighbour. We stop pretending to be anything other than what we are and in this silence, all the beauty of the traditional forms can really be appreciated for what it is and not as a way to becoming free. It is seeing beauty itself, in action. That is why in the tantric tradition of Kashmirian non-dualism, the arts have been heavily emphasized, as opposed to yoga and the classical Vedanta tradition, where art is seen as a distraction for the senses. In the Kashmir tradition, we sense that the senses are beauty itself. Through the expression and feeling of the senses, one can really forefeel the beauty beyond the senses. That is the specificity of the Kashmir tradition, compared to all other Indian traditions. Generally in India spirituality is thought of as freeing one's self from the senses. As seen from this tradition, nothing is disturbing, everything is welcome and the joy and beauty of feeling is silence speaking. Nothing is separate from it. Everything brings us back to the resonance. Abhinavagupta wrote about this feeling resonating as beauty, but he's kind of unique in the Indian tradition.
Why then do so many teachers in India and in the West advise their students to become celibate and vegetarian, and so on ?
Hitler was a vegetarian. The result can be judged in many ways. Maharaja ate meat twice a day and one can also judge that in many ways. So, I don't know why people have problems with meat. As for celibacy, I cannot understand it, because for most people it is through man to woman relationships or man to man, or man to dog, whatever one's inclination that we really discover how free or not we are from our self image. It is very easy, if you are celibate, to feel free from attachments and feelings. It is too easy. You must have a wife and mistresses, or husband etc., and experience what happens in these relationships in order to see if you are really free of yourself. Maybe some people do not need this. Some people in India decide to observe brahmacharya, and if it comes naturally, it is beautiful. But by trying to enforce it, we miss many opportunities to see how much capacity we still have for fear, pretenses and attachment.
It is very easy if you sit in a room and do yoga the whole day and not touch a woman or a man, to think that you are free from the whole world. But when you are in a relationship and the woman you love says she prefers the neighbour, then you see if it was really love and openness to what is, or simply desire and possesivity. It is an extraordinary tool for inquiring into our stupidity. Some people do not need it, it is true, but as a rule trying to decide if you need it or not maybe some people can do that makes no sense.
I understand it technically. If one wants to do some very specific yoga exercises, and I'm sure it must be the same for mantra, you need brahmacharya. It is like in the Kabbalah, it is sometimes needed, as an act of power. It is the same as when a musician learns Indian music, he is not allowed to listen to European music. It is a matter of technique. He must attune his ear to such a subtle level that any other music will reduce his ability for a time. I have a very good friend in India who was forbidden to listen to European music for ten years. He became a very good South Indian flutist. So, in yoga there are some exercises like that, there are some moments like that. If you do martial arts, you cannot simultaneously do karate and juj-jut-su because in certain situations you will have two reflexes instead of one and it is one reflex too many. It only concerns people chosen by life to accomplish the art of yoga or tantra in the highest sense. Brahmacharya means without desire, it doesn't mean not sleeping with somebody. If the desire remains, nothing changes. You are not practicing brahmacharya if you feel desire.
As for food, many people learn from sickness caused by eating inappropriate food. Many learn a lot from cancer and from taking drugs. I myself almost destroyed my body, with drugs, with food. I would not for one second have missed this chance to challenge my beliefs. I can understand a master who as an exception, in a very specific situation, might suggest to somebody that they not eat this, or not do this, but as a general rule I don't see any sense in it.
I see that all questions can be reduced to one question. All questions come back to the idea of wanting to do something. What do you think ?
Of course ! I have been there myself with my teacher. He had answered all possible questions. There were no more questions, but still there was this movement of energy asking, even though I knew there could not be any answer. In fact, I was asking him to make me shut up, it was very clear. The only answer was to shut up. But you cannot will this to happen, it can only happen through maturity. I see clearly that I cannot understand beyond the level of my understanding, that thinking only comes from pretending to be able to think, from claiming that we are able to understand by thinking. When one constantly lives with the understanding that thought cannot go beyond thought, that feeling cannot go beyond feeling, then what remains is what Meister Eckhart described as humility. It is the space where God Himself must be the background and the operator of what is. But as long as I want it, I cannot have it, because I believe I don't have it.
So, you must just stop pretending. When I ask a master what I should do, I assume that it is not done. This claim prevents me from being honest, from being resonance, which is what I am. So, one should experience this fact over and over again, one should feel it and formulate it in many ways, until this fact resonates as such and the desire to ask comes no more because there is nothing to ask. When you don't ask, the energy isnt dispersed and it can awaken in silence. But it is important to realize that all questions basically come back to "what can I do?" and that the answer is that there is nothing you can do. So, one must live with this fact and the clarity will come as humility: I cannot win, so I'll stop fighting. As long as I have the slightest idea that, maybe if I fight I can win, maybe if I go there it will happen, maybe if I live like that, or I don't live like that, or if I dont do that, it will happen, then I deny my truth, I deny what is now. So, I live honestly with the knowledge that this urge to ask, which is the root of all activity in life, can only be what it is: a mere reflection of the truth. That is why asking a question is an expression of the answer, it is the opportunity to see that the question resonates from its origin.
If all there is, is cause and effect, then the answer "causes" the question
Yes, without the forefeeling of the answer, one cannot ask the question. In fact, the question is the sign that the answer is looking for itself, or that the question is looking for itself. The thinker is the thought. I don't look for something. We can never see what is to be found. When I see untruth, what remains is truth. You cannot remove the snake, you can only see the rope. Then there is no snake. But if I try to remove the snake, I never see the rope: I'm blocked by the snake. So, I realize clearly that I cannot be different, I accept that. I live with my pretensions, I shut up about them, I notice that I think I should be different, that I think I should not be pretentious. When I clearly acknowledge my pretension, without the pretension that I should be without pretension, again I am brought back to the resonance. What is there is not something that has to be removed in order to find truth. It becomes evident that it is truth itself, looking for itself. So, what happens to me now is the truth, whatever it is. It is only my story that thinks that truth is over there, my story that says I must not feel depressed, and thus I deny divinity. What I feel now is silence and so I shut up. Thus, I live with what happens from moment to moment and there is no other way.
Truth is not "something" to be felt, or to be experienced; it is the constant experience of non-truth. It is a non-experience and that is why it never happened to anybody and that is why one cannot live in truth. One can only see that one lives in untruth. To be free is not an occupation. You are what you are. Jean was a musician, he was not "free". He was what he was. Shankaracharya created rituals to celebrate Surya, Lakshmi and Ganesha. He wrote hymns of freedom! His function was to be a teacher. Nobody is free, it is a fantasy. We need this fantasy to keep ourselves knowingly unhappy, to maintain the claim that we will attain happiness once we become like this or like that, to maintain the pretense that we exist. We don't. Glory to Him.
Eric, thank you very much.