Awakening to who you already are
Arjuna interviewed by Juliette Anthony
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?
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
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
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.