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A MEETING IN THE HEART WITH
Isaac Shapiro is traveling around
the world with Satsang for seven years now. Satsang means:
meeting in truth. Isaac is inspired by the Indian sage
"You are the unchanging awareness in which all activity
Dick Sinnige interviews Isaac Shapiro and visits his Satsang.
See who you are
On a sunny day I step into Supernova
in Amsterdam. A short massive man carries an amplifier and a
cassette-deck. 'Can you help me?', he asks. We carry these and
other things to their place and we plug in some cords. Then he
takes a look at his watch: "Oh, it is time for Satsang."
He climbs the chair on the podium. I laugh, because I think he
is making a joke. He remains seated.
Ah, so this is Isaac Shapiro. He puts a microphone on his revers,
gives me a smile and closes his eyes. Isaac has a friendly relaxed
face with a short beard. After seven, eight minutes he makes
an Aum-sound, followed by the invocation: "May there
be peace and love among all beings in the universe. Namaskar,
welcome to Satsang."
Three years later I see Isaac in the Amsterdam Vondelkerk.
Easily he looks around and says: "Feel free to ask questions."
Somebody puts up her hand and gets a wireless microphone: Do
you meditate and what do you feel about meditation?
"There are many things that people call meditation.
Ultimately, when you are doing some activity to get somewhere,
it means that you are missing what is already here. Truth is
already here. The only moment you can know truth is now. So come
to this instant. Simply be who you are. This is 24 hours. You
cannot be who you are only for half an hour."
How do I combine this with my work?
"One of the biggest misknowledges or errors there is,
is that we keep thinking in terms of I. We say: 'I see.'
'I breathe.' 'I am doing something.' Right now, your hand just
scratched your eyebrow. Did you think: 'I am gonna scratch my
eyebrow now.', or did your hand just scratch it?"
It just happened.
"It just happens. You say: 'I am seeing.' Try and find
this 'I' that is seeing. Or: 'I am breathing.' Really breathing
is happening, seeing is happening. Who is this 'I'? We don't
see that this 'I', that we think is working, is just made up."
Who is doing my work then?
"This is a very good question. The same that is seeing.
Take a moment and really find this. Who is seeing? Who is thinking?
You tell me who this 'I' is. Don't waste another second. Every
trouble is based on 'I'. We say: 'I have this trouble.' What
is this 'I'? You say: 'I breath.' Who is breathing? When you
say 'I', what do you mean?"
When you give it words: it is everything and nothing.
"So who is working?"
Everything and nothing.
"Everything and nothing, yes. You let this work."
All of a sudden somebody shouts. Because of the high energy all
kinds of things can pop up: the popcorn-effect. A little
later someone is laughing. The microphone is passed on to the
next questioner: Is the ego our false indentity?
"Nobody has ever seen an ego. It is just an idea that
is made up. If you simply keep quiet, it does not exist. The
whole invitation here is to see what is real. So bring your mind
to that which is eternal. To that which is out of time. To that
in which time appears, in which everything appears. Then something
shows its face. Something is recognized. It is your own self."
Now I see that. But what if I do not see it?
"When that is there, see who you are. When that is not
there, see who you are."
During the week Isaac (47) answers questions.
But in the weekend there are also times when you can sit on his
chair. In front of a group of about 250 people. It strikes me
that many of those who go to sit there are really flowering.
More naked than naked and most beautiful. A little nervous I
wait for my chance to jump in front. After a while the chair
remains empty. It lasts longer than a short while.
In front of me I see a welcoming path in between the people that
are sitting on the floor. I stand up and walk my way to the podium.
I nestle myself into the chair. Immediately I am overcome by
a clear white light that enlightens me from within. It makes
my skin tremble with bliss. A very deep relaxation. Though I
cannot explain it I can allow it very easily, because it feels
so safe. It is an overflowing ecstasy, even more familiair than
my own face in the mirror.
The people around me look like a magnificent bouquet. Floating
in light. It is as if I have arrived in the origin itself. Somehow
it makes me smaller than anything can ever be. At the same time
I feel omnipresent and the others are no one else but me. I am
nothing and I experience everything.
Amidst of the bouquet Isaac Shapiro is seated. As a rock of silence.
"Is this always here?", he asks me: "Or does this
come and go?" It remains quiet. My eyes close themselves.
I look totally within. There is no more inside or outside. All
shapes are made of light and the light is shapeless. The alchemy
This is always here., I say without thinking. "Watch
out.", Isaac warns: "Because there is a hall full of
witnesses here that is hearing you." Everybody laughs. But
I can only confirm this timeless bliss: It is like a magnificent
drunkness. "Yes.", Isaac laughs: "And the
beauty is: the bar is always open!"
It is strange. Just a chair, just a bunch of people. Could this
be some kind of hypnosis? To be in the focus of attention of
these people? But it is an attention that knows no dogma. It
is free of laws and thoughts. The silence of the light. This
is what I am living for. It warms my heart and opens my soul:
welcome home! Then I get up from this electric chair to make
space for the next one.
You don't need to do anything
I visit Isaac, who grew up in South-Africa,
for an interview in the Amsterdam Kijkduinstraat. He resides
here with his wife Kali and their son Arun. We have cookies and
Isaac, when did you get involved so deeply with this awareness?
"When I was nineteen I had an experience of unconditional
love. Eversince I examined the working of my mind and the posibility
of freedom for myself and for everybody. A friend of mine told
me about Papaji. I went to Lucknow in India to meet him.
I saw the people around him lightning up like a christmas-tree.
Without any visible causation."
Your Satsang also goes quite deep.
"Yes, people tell me this. And I can see actually when
it happens to someone. The mystery of it to me is that I am not
doing anything. When Papaji told me: 'Go and be available for
Satsang.', he never told me what to do. Never. He just said:
'You found the diamond. Go now!' Oops!
I am simply keeping quiet in the truth of my own being. And then
somehow people recognize this in themselves. And when it happens
there is such a beauty in this persons eyes. The whole face relaxes.
A lot of times there is laughter and tears, all happening at
once. The tears are flowing, but these are not unhappy tears.
Something is touched. And this is beauty. The river comes from
the ocean and when it returns it becomes ocean itself. This person
is just reporting: 'I am free. This is what I have always been
In the beginning of Satsang you say Namaskar. What
does it mean?
"They speak this in India. Namaskar means: I greet that
in you which is the same in me."
teachers teacher: Ramana, said the only way to really
speak about this was in silence. Basically he just sat absorbed
in bliss in the silence of his own being. Not speaking to anyone.
When people came around him, all of a sudden they started to
feel ecstatic and blissfull. And their mind did not function.
His silence was so profound that all their troubles would disappear.
Even though he did not speak and did not do anything. Simply
be being. Because of the profound effect he had on people, people
would realize through him. Through a glance or through a touch
they would recognize their own self. When you do meet somebody
that is free of all of this, you see the possibility that you
can live like this too."
So you don't have to do anything. That makes it very simple.
"It is very simple. Too simple for most people. Because
it goes against our conditioning. We keep thinking that we can
do something that will make us happy. This idea that we can do
something makes us unhappy in the first place. One of the things
that happen when people recognize who they are, is this tremendous
burst of love for everyone and everything. People have been looking
everywhere to find this love. They discover the source of love
in their own heart, in their own self. Who knows what will happen
in our society when something out of love, beauty comes? I am
interested to see what happens."
Our society is full of corruption and suppression. It seems
pretty hard to break through.
"We have seen a few times in our history that things
have been a certain way and then some discovery happens. And
without even meaning to it changes everything. Like for example
when the use of fire or the wheel was discovered. Just a simple
discovery and everything turns around. This discovering of something
just makes this other thing outdated."
Garden of Eden
There is a story in which paradise
became outdated, because a certain Eva picked an apple.
"I heard another interpretation
of this thing. We were hunter-gatherers for millions of years.
We lived in small bands of people. Like a troop of monkeys. They
move and everything is there that they need. They eat the grasses,
they eat the leaves. The insects, everything is there for them.
They really live in a Garden of Eden, a garden of plenty. We
were living like this. Then we found agriculture. So this was
eating of the Tree of Knowledge. Once we found agriculture, we
had to earn our living by the sweat of our brow. Farming is hard
But we also were not dependent so much anymore on what we could
find and what we could not find. Sometimes the animals have a
hard time when there is a drought or something like this. When
you are a hunter-gatherer, you are hunting and gathering and
other things are hunting and gathering you. So we moved from
this to farming communities. And then the next thing was: Kaïn
killed Abel. The farmers killed the hunter-gatherers. Because
we were in competition for the ground.
People that stay in one place can build walls and defend themselves.
They have more food. They can grow more than they need. They
have time to make weapons. And they live with more people together.
So the small bands were wiped out. Today, there are very few
hunter-gatherers left. Here and there in the rainforests maybe.
A few Aboriginals. In every society the hunter-gatherers have
been wiped out.
This finding of agriculture also coïncides, some scientists
and historians believe, with the ability that we have to think
about thinking. A monkey can think: 'If I stick a stick in this
ant-hill, then I get ants.' Animals can think, but they cannot
think about thinking."
What about dolphins?
"Dolphins might have this ability too. We do not know
their internal world. So as we moved into cities, there were
few different pressures. More memory was needed to be able to
function as a society. This ability to speak and have language
also developed our thinking and our memory. These developments
made us stronger than an elephant, because we could shoot it.
We were conquering nature. We were replacing the value that the
gods had for us. Before we would pray to the gods for this thing.
Now we were taking control. We were not depending on the gods
This thinking about thinking became very valued. And now we are
all the children of it. This is this I-thought. It produces
a sense of separation and fear. And when you think about thinking
you can also lie. You can think one thing and say something else.
It has brought us split-mind: Me and something else. Me and my
thinking. Me and my emotions. Or: subject-object. This brings
a sense of separation. In the separation there is fear. Naturally
this produces intense suffering. By itself this suffering produces
a wanting to come out of the suffering."
Right now there are many people
who are interested in awareness itself.
"We are the first wave
of this wanting to wake up. Still a very small percentage. If
you look in historical perspective: Buddha is only 2.500 years
ago. Our whole history of this enlightenment is only maybe 10.000
years. A fingersnap in time. Today you can speak this and you
could not speak this twenty years ago. Nobody was ready for it.
Somehow we are drawn to truth. It is pulling itself to itself."
It is a beautiful history, and yet also a nightmare.
"Yes, when the dream is unpleasant, we call it a nightmare.
And when the nightmare gets tough, we wake up."
So the nightmare is running in the right direction.
"When we wake up we see: 'It is just a dream.' Behind
the dream you are. You are that in which the dream appears. You
cannot understand this with your thinking. This has to be a direct
experience. For an instant we have to put this whole mechanism
of interpreting everything aside; our filtre-system. For an instant
you don't do anything here. Be quiet. No effort."
We remain silent for some time. It is not only the ears that
are listening. It is not only the eyes that see. The room is
pervaded with light. Amazing, that this is all so very natural
and simple. Isaac smiles and nods, inviting me for the next question.
What is the relationship between awareness and our senses?
"Scientists have discovered now that if you flash a
light up, it takes a third of a second before we actually see
it. So everything that we see or sense with our five senses is
actually in the past. And also this whole business of decision
making. By the time we are conscious of having made a decision
the decision is already been made.
My actual interest is the direct experience of who you are. Usually
we are very aware of the object and our relationship to the object.
We never look to see: 'Who is aware of this?' Who is aware
of this whole process of sensing?"
Who is this 'I' that is looking? What is your own experience?
This feeling of 'I' does not exist in deep sleep. Then you are
not aware of anything. There is no time, no space. No sense of
'I' even. And then the question is: 'Who is aware of this?' Something
- and this is not the personal 'I' - is aware that this whole
process of personalizing is not present. So normally this is
what catches our attention, this whole process of personalizing
everything. And making a relationship."
So everything is just happening?
"Everything is just happening. Spontaneously and naturally.
Of itself, by itself. According to some thing that we cannot
say what it is."
What is this?
"Nobody can say what it is. People give it a name: God,
Atman, universal consciousness or Brahman. We try
and personalize it. We come up with some concept to try and grasp
it. You see, if you have a hole in a piece of wood and you ask
someone to describe the hole, they say: 'It is a wooden hole.'
But clearly it is not a wooden hole that you see.
And even space appears in awareness. Because to have any space
there has to be awareness of the space. And this awareness is
here now. In the East they explain it like this: When you have
gold, this gold can be made into many ornaments: rings, earrings,
collars and things like this. But the gold remains gold. Something
is the same in everything. When we do not try to catch this with
our thinking, the direct experience arises in our heart. For
me it was the most important discovery: the diamond.
It is closer than anything., I see and say.
"This is the truth. Your own heart speaking to itself. It
is deeper than intimacy. Intimacy still assumes the other. This
It is like making love.
"It is an inner kiss. In the heart, in your own heart.
This is the true Tantra. This is the internal loving itself.
Your own heart loving itself. Everywhere. In everything. At every
moment. This moment is really beautiful."
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