A View on the Teachings
of Adyashanti of San Francisco.
Dharma practitioners ask or email me regularly my views on certain teachings and teachers, modern and ancient. I might receive a quote to give a general comment or am asked whether I would consider certain teachings as enlightened.
I have some experience in these matters of the spiritual life and am happy to share a view. I appreciate such discussions or emails as they encourage to me read about these teachings or watch on YouTube, a recorded talk, inquiry or satsang of the respective teacher.
For example, a yogi asked me a year ago to comment on the teachings of Adyashanti, a 51 year old American spiritual teacher, based in the San Francisco area, who started teaching in the mid 1990’s. He is a former dedicated Zen practitioner.
I must add here that it is not my intention to step on the toes of Adyashanti or his devotees but only offer some supportive comments for further inquiry – and that is certainly an express wish of Adyashanti.
In his book The Way to Liberation, Adyashanti writes : "The primary task of any good spiritual teaching is not to answer your questions, but to question your answers.”
I have taken his point seriously and have taken the liberty to question a few of his answers. I trust that he does not consider it impertinent.
Let me say right away, I appreciate immensely Adyashanti’s capacity to explain his teachings and his way clearly in a non-technical, easy to understand language, free from religious baggage. He is likeable, easy to listen to and provides a valuable service to his followers in California and elsewhere. His writings are consistently thoughtful and he offers plenty of sound advice and down-to-earth wisdom.
I wish Adyashanti addressed head on ethics, diet, consumer lifestyle, energy consumption, the importance of sustainability, the wise use of money and the importance of action. It is a big ask. Adyashanti would have to be fearless in California to address such issues in his satsangs and writings.
I believe these issues remain indispensable to an enlightened life in these vulnerable times in terms of global realities. All of us have to be mindful of these areas in our daily life. Gautama, the Awakened One, addressed these issues but they do seem to have conveniently fallen off the radar for many contemporary masters espousing enlightenment.
Anyway, here are few quotes of Adyashanti with a response:
The only person who can cause us to suffer, who can cause us to misperceive illusion and separation, who has this much power, is ourselves.
This view has a little merit for fortunate people dealing with some inter-personal difficulties. That is as far as it goes. Is Adyashanti asking his followers to believe that the decision of politicians, military operations, and corporations cannot cause men, women and children to suffer? As a consequence of the decisions and behaviour of others, these same citizens can feel desperation and isolation. Has he never been to a war zone?
Does he not know about 3.5 million homeless US citizens trapped in desperate lives on US streets?
Does he not know of the loneliness of countless millions unwanted and unloved?
Adyashanti is not the only spiritual teacher, who believes that the only person who can cause us to suffer is ourselves. Such views about the power of the self can stifle protest, a passion for change and acts of reconciliation. Such views let our institutions and the brutal behaviour of others off the hook when it comes to responsibility for the suffering of citizens.
Others can cause us suffering. The painful experience of separation is not an illusion. It is the first noble truth
True Meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrender. In true meditation the emphasis is on being awareness; not on being aware of objects,
Adyashanti has a PDF called True Meditation. It contains some lovely one line statements on meditation. Such language as True Meditation easily gets close to dogma if repeated on a regular basis. True meditation is a personal claim.
I recall having a recorded discussion with Krishnamurti (see Freedom of the Spirit, Greenprint, UK) during the 1980’s. He also claimed to know what true meditation is in a rather similar way to Adya.
Meditation also can have a direction and goal – the direction of going deep or the goal of reduction of stress, insights, opening of the heart and liberation. Meditation can easily embrace thoughts and words and be free from interest in surrender. Meditation can include exploration of the conditionality of objects and know objects neither support liberation nor obscure it. Meditation can be without goal or object or with a goal and object. This is true, also.
Your conscious and unconscious assumptions and beliefs that distort your perception cause you to see separation and division where there is actually only unity and completeness.
I recall in the year 2000 a poll when more than 90% of US citizens said they have had during the course of their life a profound spiritual experience – of God, of unity, of oneness. A year later, and immediately after 9/11, more than 90% of US citizens supported President Bush and his war on the people of Afghanistan, not that a single Afghani took part in the high jacking of any of the planes to commit an act of mass murder in NYC.
Of what use is an experience of unity if it doesn’t lead to the most basic perception of support for the life of others to show unity? We have the capacity to recognise separation and division– such as acts of violence, alienation and numerous painful issues affecting human life and all sentient life.
We can find ways to act. There is the potential for empowerment to act through staying true to the original perception of separation and division rather than try to perceive it as unity and completeness.
Rectifying and restoring being to its true dominion and sovereignty is what spiritual awakening makes possible. Being (or spirit) is universal and exists prior to all conditions, all points of view, all objects of consciousness, and all subjects as well. Make no mistake: being—your being—is the central issue of life. It is within the dimension of being that Truth reveals itself. Having revealed and cleared out the false ideas of mind, you are now ready to rest in the stillness of being.
Oh dear. Oh dear. Adya says that being has dominion and sovereignty. Over what? It is an unprovable view that being exists prior to all conditions, to all points of view.
There is nothing that confirms being – not a sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or anything whatsoever in the inner life, nor a combination of all that, since all that arises, abides and dissolves occurs due to conditions with no being to any of it.
If we grasp onto being, it easily inhibits action, a capacity for fearless living out of concern for others. We need to meditate on others, be aware of others and act with wisdom. Being is one issue of many. There is the danger that claims to abide in being lend itself to a passive response to issues.
Truth also reveals itself through action, through renunciation, through communication, inquiry and much more. If you have cleared out the false ideas of your mind, it could be a false idea to then rest in the stillness of being.
Do not rest anywhere. Not there, nor elsewhere, nor in-between. Not beyond. Nor in the deep. Not in being, nor in doing.
That’s the joy of liberation. Free in all directions.
There is much worthwhile in the teachings of Adyashanti. Do go to his website for further information. http://www.adyashanti.org/
May all be free to question
May all live with compassion
May all be awakened