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Awakening to who you already are

Arjuna interviewed by Juliette Anthony in 1998


Q. Arjuna, you began your spiritual journey at a very young age, much younger than most, in the seventies. How did that come about for you?

arjuna insatsangDesperation! I was born into what is probably generically referred to as a highly dysfunctional family. My parents underwent a very difficult divorce when I was four ­ everything I saw around me as a child smacked of unnecessary misery. Although throughout my family there was a great deal of sadness and misunderstanding between people, there was also a pervading sense in me that all of this was unnecessary, that this was not the natural state of life to be lived. It was like I had a cellular memory of something more natural, more loving, more integrated. This cellular memory, which I think everyone has ­ a sense of their true home, their true nature, drew me as a child to want to be in churches. I was always attracted to anything religious or spiritual, just because it smacked of something truer, something deeper.
 Arjuna in satsang

I went alone to church when I was maybe seven or eight years old.
The first real hit of something profound came through reading Krishnamurti when I was thirteen. Then at fourteen I was in a boarding school in Canterbury, England where we wore very formal uniforms. I was walking beside the Cathedral and I met a Hare Krishna Monk. Orange robes and all that. I thought he must have been an Indian sage, so when he finished chanting, I gingerly went up to him and said "Excuse me sir, do you speak English?" In a thick cockney accent he said "yea, sit yerself dan mate and I'll tell yer all about it." So he sat me down and told me all about reincarnation and Krishna and liberation and so on. All of this seemed so much more real and appealing than anything that I knew from my family of origin. I telephoned my mother in London that night and told her "I am going to become a Hare Krishna monk." She immediately threatened to take an overdose (bursts into laughter), and we compromised that I would instead learn Transcendental Meditation. Later, at 16 or 17, I became a teacher of TM.
That is where it all began. At any point along the way, if it seemed that something would take me deeper into myself in a more integrated way, I would just jump into that. Like many people of my generation I did EST, I studied with Tibetan teachers, I had a long involvement with Rajneesh. I practiced Vipassana, and Dzogchen. I traveled to India throughout the seventies and eighties, all the time looking for something more, something where seeking would end.
Seeking finally did come to a complete fruition in my meeting with Poonjaji. He introduced me to the realization beyond which there is no more seeking. He introduced me to a realization that was absolute rather than relative.

Q. In Relaxing Into Clear Seeing, you talk a lot about Advaita. Could you talk a little about this.

A. Advaita is an Indian word for which there is no exact translation; it roughly means "not two", or non-dual. It means a view in which one directly perceives all things to be oneself, where duality disappears. It is a view in which one perceives seeming others to be one's true Self, in which one sees one's own thoughts as not separate from the silent presence from which they arise. All things become integrated, including seeming negative emotions, including conflict, including everything we try to get rid of. Everything is perceived to be part of a wholeness, but not just intellectually. It has an intellectual component but true Advaita is an experiential approach. We could talk about the "perennial philosophy," about non-dualism, about awakening, Advaita is just an Indian word for the Truth. The Truth which, once you stumble into it, becomes completely undeniable.

Q. What do you mean by "Coming home to yourself"?

A. We have all kinds of experiences. Any experience that you have can be categorized as either a thought: "I am one with all things," ­ or as a feeling state: ecstasy is a feeling state, boredom is a feeling state, bliss is a feeling state ­ or as a physical sensation: an exploding energy in the belly is a physical sensation, a glow of love in one's heart is a physical sensation. All these experiences, however spiritual and wonderful they may seem, are all fleeting. Anything that is mental or emotional or physical has a beginning in time and hence has an ending in time. Although spiritual experiences may be very alluring and appealing, sooner or later they are frustrating because they disappear just as they appeared. There is something more than that which is not so dramatic. You could say peace, but not a peace that comes and goes ­ you discover a peace that is underneath all activity. You could say silence, not a silence which is interspersed with noise, but a silence which contains all noise. You could also say vastness, not a vastness which is opposed to limitation, but a vastness which contains all limitation. When you discover that, it is more a realization than an attainment. It's the realization that who you are is always silent, peaceful, unlimited, unborn, undying. This is an awakening to who you already are, when this awakening comes about through inquiry into your true nature it's more of a homecoming than an experience. It's more of a relaxing back into what was always the case, and in this realization there is relief. There is an undeniable knowing that this is who I am, not something I am experiencing. The book is about this coming home to one's Self, rather than discovering something new.

Q. The exercises in your book are presented in the Living Essence training. Are these exercises also suitable for two untrained people to undertake on their own without supervision?

A. There's nothing included in the book which is outside the domain of someone with an open heart. These sessions are not suitable to treat mental illness or for someone who's disturbed. But if someone has an open heart, an unprejudiced inquiry into things, the processes are very simple, and very effective. Simpler than any kind of healing or changing would be, because they're not about healing and changing. The processes are just about relaxing into what is already the case. Even in this moment, regardless of whether you're feeling good or feeling neurotic, you are anyway peace, silence, infinite space. You may not realize it, but there is no choice, it is your nature. These processes help you inquire into that.
Some people may find that they would like to go deeper when they read the book, that they would like to have some supervision, and then we're available. But no harm can come from experimenting. A number of people have written to us since the book's release saying that in reading the book on their own and experimenting that they had very effective results. For example, Barbara Marx Hubbard read the book, and she e-mailed me the next morning saying that she had had a very profound awakening and a turning point in her spiritual life. Believe me, she's done everything on the market.
Humanity has evolved to a considerable state of maturity. If you look at the popularity of books such as "Conversations with God" or "The Celestine Prophecy," there are millions of people on this planet who are very thirsty and have already undergone a considerable amount of preparation and training. Awakening may not be for a hundred percent of the population, but it certainly could be for one or two percent which in this country accounts for between two and five million people.
The criteria is not how much training one has, and it is certainly not how much academic or clinical training one has because that could actually be a detriment. Academic training fills one so full of concepts, and psychotherapeutic training tends to introduce a lot of categorization of people's experience. What is desirable here is an open heart, an innocent heart, a heart uncluttered by concepts, uncluttered by assumptions about things. If one has an open, innocent heart this work can go extremely deep in a very safe way. I would assume from the people who I meet that there are many, many people innocently thirsty at this moment to know the truth of their real nature, their real home.

Q. How would this work help people in their relationships, first with themselves, and then with those around them?

A. The book takes you to a level of experience where all relationship is with yourself. Seeming "other people" appear as separate in a dualistic universe. If you want to put this philosophically you could say a post-Aristotelian or post-Newtonian universe. Piaget demonstrated that small babies don't perceive a dotted red line where they end and someone else begins. You can see from the way that babies use their hands: they experience the universe as part of themselves. A small baby experiences itself as not separate from the mother. Only in the second year of development there starts to be this individuation between me and other. A small baby and an enlightened sage have the same experience. The sage also perceives everything to be an emanation of the true Self. The book works with a level of experience where "other" is recognized to be a mirroring of your true nature. If someone comes to you with anger, instead of defending against it, you can relax into a place where you recognize the anger to be your own. Anger is not yours or mine, it is one of the flavors of the undifferentiated state of being. So are love and compassion. Not only so-called positive qualities, all experience arises out of the same place. The book holds your relationship with yourself as primary, in that it allows you to relax into your true Self, to make friends with your true Self, to recognize your Self, to re-embrace your Self after a long alienation from your Self. This reintegration of your relationship with your true Self automatically spills over into deeper intimacy with others, not because you have new relationship skills, but because you drop the idea that "I" and "you" are separate so you see the "other" as your Self.
There is nothing more intimate than that.

Q. That's great. In what ways do you see these principles as helpful in your own life?

A. It would have to go way beyond helpful. Through the grace of my teacher, Poonjaji, everything has been so completely transformed, so utterly transformed, that it has come full circle. The outer appearance has come back to where it was when it started out ­ utterly ordinary. Things are so completely different that everything's the same!
What has occurred for me and what continues to occur for me, is an abandoning of the temptation to interfere with things as they are. A relaxing and trusting that everything that arises, whether it's an external event, an emotion, or a thought, is perfect. It may not seem perfect at the time but as you relax into non-interference, everything that comes, even if it appears to be stress or conflict, is simply another emanation of something that is actually perfect, supremely benevolent, and intelligent. I lead an ordinary life. I have two children. I have relationships with people which, at least on the surface, are not anyone's idea of a model of how to lead relationships. I deal in the world of money, work, and schedules and the relative world has its moments of ease and relaxation and its moments of difficulty and challenge. In the last few years I've come very close to bankruptcy and so far survived. I have challenges with my body. I'm an ordinary human being and I'm totally delighted to remain an ordinary human being. I have no aspirations to be something different from an ordinary human being. In the relaxing into the acceptance of things as they are there is a blessedness which is invisible. It's not a blessedness which comes from huge material success or from having the perfect relationships or the perfect children. It's the blessedness that comes from ceasing to interfere with things as they arise. There's an ecstasy in that which is an ecstasy for no reason, which comes from gratitude for things as they are rather than trying to improve things with some idealistic concept. So my source of well-being is having given up trying to become enlightened (bursts out laughing), in giving up even holding this concept of being enlightened or unenlightened or being on a path. In just giving up the whole thing there's a relaxation into the realization that you've always been perfect, even the tough moments have always been perfect. There is a Grace, you could call it God, you could call it Love, you could call it the Spirit, there is a Grace. It can only be recognized when we cease to try to work on things and improve them.

Q. Would you recommend that people either find an existing group of people or start one of their own to gain support?

A. I would recommend people to trust what occurs naturally. If the natural flow is to find a group and work with these tools in a group then trust that flow. If the natural flow is to work with a friend then trust that. If the natural flow is to work alone with the book or to use our tapes then trust that. If the natural flow is a pull in the heart to come and work with us wherever we're teaching, come and join our party here. These things are taken care of by something much greater than our individual decision-making machine. I would recommend people to recognize that there is a longing to come home already in their hearts, perfectly intact. The book is intended to cultivate and honor that longing which everyone already has to come home to peace, to come home to love, to come home to vastness. If you relax into that longing, honor that longing, flow with that longing, the longing itself will lead you where you need to be whether it's a teacher or a group or a training. It alone will lead you in the right direction. It has to be trusted.

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