People On The Other Shore

Purity of Intention — Awakening is a discovery of the truth about you, and because it’s a discovery you cannot bring your assumptions and dogma and beliefs along with you. You can’t trust your thinking. You must first sharpen your instruments of knowing. You must observe, as a witness.

But awakening does require you to face up to yourself. Which is the thing nobody wants to do.

Yet, some people are able to. Why is that? What’s the difference in these people? Why are some people able to overcome the fear of looking at themselves?

I think it’s the purity of intention. When there the strong and pure intention to know the truth, we can overcome the fear of looking at ourselves.

Cognitive Dissonance–the common psychological condition in people who create beliefs which are the opposite of what they fear in themselves. For example, people with repressed anger will often preach non-violence; abusiveness/judgment/control is often rationalized as a passion for peace; latent feelings of homosexuality often come out as homophobia; ex-smokers are more fervently anti-smoking than non-smokers; unhappy people will often ascribe their unhappiness as other people’s fault. It is Shakespeare’s “she doth protest a little too much” and it is the hysterical person who is screaming the loudest for everyone else to shut up. It is the inability to accept clear evidence which is against an existing belief.

The mind’s ability to hold these contradictory beliefs is easily defeated by self-observation, by becoming conscious, but it’s a bit circular, because the mind doesn’t want to be observed.

“The belief that something is wrong is the fire under the ass of humanity.” –Jed McKenna

“Fear, regardless of what face it wears, is the engine that drives humans as individuals and humanity as a species.” –Jed McKenna

“All fear is ultimately fear of no-self.” –Jed McKenna

I’m discovering that I don’t know how to talk about awakening with people who have not started to awaken yet.

Mostly, I don’t try to, but recently I’ve been part of group where awakening is being discussed.

Seems to me very few us actually awaken. It takes serendipity. Some things have to happen to help us get over the fear of looking at ourselves. The impetus is perhaps the exhaustion from suffering, or the overwhelming desire to know truth, or accidental.

Most of us do not want to look at ourselves. The start of it as simple as observing thoughts, as witness, dispassionately, but It’s hard to get over the fear of looking at ourselves.

So then why is it that a few people are able to? What’s the difference?

As far as I can see it is the purity of intention. When we can form the strong intention to know ourselves, to know truth, at any cost, that’s when we can overcome the initial fear of looking at ourselves.

I read a beautiful book, a Pulitzer-prize winning novelization by Katherine Boo, “Behind The Beautiful Forevers” in which she describes corruption and social oppression in a slum in India.

Corruption is woven through every layer in India, even in people who just barely subsist in a slum.  It is the thing which holds India back. There’s a funny news story about the time when the Delhi police collectively forgot their mothers’ maiden name and the name of their first grade teacher, because they could not log on to a portal which collected corruption complaints for eight year!

That’s how the ego works in the human mind. The ego is corrupt, and will hijack awakening and corrupt it, so that awakening then becomes something of the mind, and can no longer be called awakening. When awakening is no longer self-observation, it becomes a practice of spirituality or the accumulation of fixed mental positions or dogma.

We may say that if corruption is defeated in India there will be plentiful opportunities for every Indian, but this is tricky to execute because as Katherine Boo points out in her book, corruption is the opportunity right now.

And so it is with the ego. Corruption is the opportunity.

If you were in a car accident and hit your head, and doctor asks you how you feel, and you say fine, and she says I know you think you are making sense but the words coming out of your mouth are gibberish, and then another person says the same, and another, and at first you dig in your heels and decide that world is trying to do you in, but after repeated head-banging, you decide that may there’s another possibility. Maybe you’re not looking at this right. If you were really talking gibberish but it sounds right to you, how would you know? How would you find out?

This is the first insight of awakening.

8 thoughts on “People On The Other Shore

  1. Kate

    My spiritual awakening started with a brain imbalance that caused me for split apart. As hard as it was, I was able to experience many of the hidden aspects of myself without much interference from the ego. Even when I was more or less whole again, a shadow quality would become very dominant and it wouldn’t fade away until I’d acknowledged and accepted it. This continued very intensely for the first two years or so. The worse thing about this blindness is the projection and the resultant insanity and confusion. And, you risk your life by telling the person that they’re projecting. I’m learning to just let it be; let them be. The interesting thing is that this trait is often worse in spiritual seekers. Trying to be “holy” is often the ego’s attempt at being superior and creating a false self. “Wholeness” is a much worthier goal but, damn, facing yourself is brutal sometimes. It takes a lot of compassion but then, maybe, that’s what it’s all about.c

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for sharing. You had an interesting start into awakening.

      I agree–the spiritualized ego is a tough nut to crack. So are the egos which cling to the intellect.


  2. Charlie

    I finished Jed’s book and he talks about H/A (Human Adulthood) but it’s not T/R (Truth Realization). In the quote above about no-self, that is what T/R is ultimately is. When you do John Sherman’s looking, does it helps you reach T/A by pealing away the fear? I asked this because I have done ‘the looking’ and now I kind of understand where this leads to, but I have lots of resistance. I think the looking strips down what Jed talks about, but it’s hard to grasp what actually you’re going through.

    I never started this for spiritual reasons yet I think I had no choice in the manner, as something was off in my mind. You have talked about this, as the fear of living.

    anyway, I just take your advise with releasing, observing and doing the next step that comes.


    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Charlie,

      Sorry about the delay in responding. I have not been getting email notifications of comments in the last few days.

      You’re on track as far as I can tell. The techniques which have been effective have been self-observation. Self-honesty is required, and I’ve found that with intention it develops. Self-observation can start simply with observing thoughts, dispassionately, as a witness. John Sherman’s looking technique is excellent. I see it as the same thing which Nisargadatta and Ramana and others have suggested, but Sherman is exceptionally clear. As you know, it’s a simple and easy-to-do technique. Use it whenever you think of it–just bring attention to what it feels like to you, momentarily. In my experience, I saw the efficacy of the technique immediately, and I used it for about three or four months. I looked whenever I remembered to. During the those months I felt some agitation. Then there was period of confusion, lasting probably nine months or so. Many people report this confusion. I think possibly the mind has lost it’s false but familiar tethering. And then gradually, a calm clarity comes about.

      The release technique is wonderful. It helps to release difficult emotions, but it has also helped me understand what emotions are, and it has helped release the fear of emotion, which of course means that there is less resistance and fear to feeling.

      And Jed Mckenna is a good dose of wake-up. He’s no-nonsense, direct, ruthless.

      Yes, it’s the fear of living.

      I’m very glad to hear about your evolution.


  3. Nitin Panchal

    Namaste Kaushikbhai,

    I can see the/your honesty here in this article. You are damn right, you have nail it by this…
    . …”When awakening is no longer self-observation, it becomes a practice of spirituality or the accumulation of fixed mental positions or dogma.”

    Two powerful quality, the bonding agents Ego & Fear playing rear game without one knowing it. The self observation can catch it. Question remain How to do self observation ?? To observe any thing you have to be out side of it, from sky we can observe earth entirely. How do I observe myself while every step I try to be out of myself, these two qualities are with me.
    Once I will be out with out these two, agent & sales man, I may be able to see myself. And for that I have to take guide called honesty.

    What is it in us and why is it that seek this unknowable answer from ever since life started on planet., and again answer could be ego & fear want to be free for ever.
    It’s seems like Mary-go around !!! Ego and curiosity does not let you admit that presence of unknowable. Once you admit that there is unknowable, it’s up to you how do you relate with it ?
    Am I making any sense here ? my head started spinning already……


    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Nitin,

      Good to hear from you. Sorry about the delay in responding. I hope you and your family are doing well, and Salmubarak!

      I think it’s hard to make sense of this conceptually. Of course, that is exactly what I try to do when I write here but still, we can see that the conceptual grasping of who you are is difficult and ever-changing. As you say, unkowable. You’ve said the agent and salesman, ego and fear, and I speak sometimes in the same way, and I agree with you, sometimes, and sometimes making these divisions is not helpful. You are you. Bringing attention to what it feels like to be you, without dividing or labeling, is a powerful technique.


  4. Akhil nambiar

    Suppose a person is enlightened. His dream is to learn many skills effortlessly as possible. Will he be able to achieve his dream.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Akhil,

      I don’t know. I’m more interested in awakening, which I see as increasing clarity. From what I have heard of the enlightenment, it doesn’t give one any sort of super-ability.

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