If I had to pick just one Eastern teacher with whom I most identify, whom I could call my teacher, my guru, then my hands-down pick would be Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Maharaj, as his students still call him, was a sage but not a saint, which is one of the reasons I love him so much. That and the fact that the abundant record of his no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, rowdy teaching is the clearest I’ve ever encountered.
At last I have the ears to hear nearly every word Maharaj says, and he didn’t waste any, so when he says a word repeatedly, I pay very close attention. If you study him, you’ll find that one word he uses over and over again is “conviction.” Conviction is the parent of abidance as abidance is the parent of a fuller embodiment. I can’t tell you anything about full embodiment because I’m not there yet. We all do the best we can, and some of us are slower than others.
Maharaj never spoke from the position of a so-called individual, and he rarely addressed one. He spoke with the full authority of That. Notice that I’m not saying This. One of the paradoxes of Maharaj’s teaching—and this one—is that although there is no actual separation to be found, there is still the perception of a This and a That—the experiencing and its Absolute Witness. I’ve written and spoken about that paradox in other places, so I won’t go into it here.
Suffice it to say that This (Oneness) is not other than That (Noneness), but that This does not equal That. Think of a mother whose child is outside the womb, but whose umbilical cord is still connected.
Maharaj would make an exception to the speaking-only-to-Consciousness rule when it came to the mechanics of helping someone have either an initial awakening or a re-awakening, so to speak. And when he did, he would harp on the importance of conviction.
For most of us, our initial awakening “event,” if we have one at all, is a kind of shaky experience. My first “pop” was back in 1992. It was true and clear but only lasted a few seconds. I didn’t know then what I know now—that a few seconds can be enough.
I managed to ego (used here as a verb) my way out of clarity in no time at all. Still I knew! I had “seen” It! Which as anyone who’s awake can tell you, is a sure signal of the absence of present conscious awakeness.
And then the doubts began to come in, to undermine and unseat what I had “seen.” I should also point out that I was a practicing alcoholic at the time which is not helpful. For 14 years that experience haunted me.
I began to question if I’d really had such a thing as “kensho,” which is how my then-Zen character would have described the experience. As we see in legal courts every day, memory is not an infallible source of information. Yet there was something that wouldn’t give, that wouldn’t budge under pressure from me or anyone else. I couldn’t even say what it was, but something was there and it wasn’t going anywhere. Ever.
In 2006 the Big Bang occurred. They are entirely unnecessary and not recommended even though they are a hell of a lot of fun, and you don’t have any choice in the matter anyway. (However, the mode in which we wake up does appear to have a big impact on the experience of the event, though not on the event itself.) It was, to say the least, unmistakable. It lasted in an overwhelming way for hours (I don’t recall much of that first day), in a brilliant way for days, and then in a dwindling way for days, weeks, months, and years.
Yet unmistakable or not, the further I got away from the drug-like event, the less sure I became that I had actually “woken up.” In a way I could not have predicted or projected, “I” moved from Total Experience to disbelief and repudiation. How is this even possible? Lots of ways.
When we come into the presence of clear and authentic teachings we begin the process of going sane. In fact, it was the stretching shoots of sanity that leaned you toward the sunlight of Nonduality to begin with. I don’t know how far it goes back, but it’s a long way. (Of course there is no time, per se, which confuses mind, but let’s not go there today.) Every concept gets its day.
The “event” of awakening is no more or less than a spike on a chart. It’s not the size of the spike that counts, it’s the path of the line. All spikes have an apex and a nadir. It’s what happens after that nadir that really counts.
Some lines flatten post-nadir and a few of them decline. The “lines” that are reading this article have a better-than-average chance of ascending, but nothing’s a done deal until it is, and I notice that even then things can unwind. If you are looking for spiritual security, look elsewhere.
Lines that rise in a more or less consistent fashion will share at least two common factors. One is earnestness and the other is conviction. For years I thought earnestness was the foremost requirement any apparent individual needed in order to experience an initial awakening. I’ve since found out that even if that was once true, in today’s shifting world it is no longer true.
Where earnestness is required in great measure is in clearing, in post-awakening. That little-understood state is where even though it’s been clearly seen that there’s “nobody home,” the one-who-doesn’t-exist can and does have an effect on clearing anyway.
Go figure. I’m just reporting on What Is, not “why is, who is, or how is.”
So if earnestness is the most coveted quality for a seeker-become-something-of-a-finder, how does one go about acquiring it? Through conviction. And from where does conviction arise? Earnestness. It’s a chicken and egg thing, and I notice we have to have both. But I’ve already reported quite a bit on earnestness. As I say, every concept gets its day.
Conviction arises from the exercise of faith and the experience of exposure to Conscious Awakeness.
Oh, I know, faith is a dirty word in our circle, but it’s one I’m going to use anyway. When I do, however, I am chiefly referring to faith in an end. If our conviction in a given end is strong enough, earnestness and means will appear. We have often heard the saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear,” and that has also been my own experience as both a seeker and a teacher.
Jnana yoga, which is not the worst description of the path of direct inquiry, attracts big brains. Fools do contact me on occasion, but when they do, they inevitably turn out to be fools with big brains. Having been an Utter Fool for a long, long time, and now often being thought of as something of a Wise Fool, you can see now neatly I fit in.
You fit in too, or you would never have gotten this far into this article. So, if you’ll pardon the authorial intrusion, I will “break the fourth wall,” as they call it, and address you, the reader reading this right now, directly.
Welcome home, my friend.
Big brains are horrified at the idea of being made to look foolish. That notion keeps them up at night and constantly scheming on how to safeguard themselves from such an event. I should know, because I’ve done a great deal of it myself. This brain does far less of it this scheming, but I’d be overreaching if I said it didn’t do it at all. Like karma, conditioning has a long arm.
To encourage conviction, there are any number of things you can do. The most important of these is quite a hard pill to swallow. Accept the truth you are not the final arbiter of truth on Planet Earth. It’ll require some humility, which may be nearly as foreign to you as it is to me, but trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
Secondly there is a “mantra” that I have previously prescribed:
I am unborn.
I am unbound.
I am untouched.
You are unborn—you are not in or of the dream.
You are unbound—you have no boundaries anywhere; you are Infinity itself.
You are untouched—nothing that happens in the dream affects you.
Third—this will be another hard one—at least pretend that these teachings are true. Make an agreement with your ego to follow them as prescribed at least until they fail you, as your ego knows they will. That means,
- Do the Sense of Being Meditation for 10 minutes a day. If you do it twice a day no one will arrest you.
- Watch my videos, and/or, listen to my podcasts.
- Inquire, inquire, inquire! (E.g. The thought arises that, “I don’t care what he says, this crap won’t work.” Ask, Who is it that knows that? Who is it that says that? Can you actually locate a knower/talker/doer? When you turn attention back onto the knower/talker/doer do you find some-thing or no-thing?
- Do these over and over again until they drive you sane. Once you break through to abiding in sanity, it’s simply a self-propelled way of life that offers both freedom and joy.