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The ways in which many Western spiritual types relate to the profound teachings of the nondual traditions is deeply problematic. There is a tendency to learn about some high spiritual truth, like no-self or emptiness, and apply it to their experience using habitual, unrefined attention; basically, their baseline delusional state. They find some truth in the teachings – such as looking for a self and not finding one – and then think they’re enlightened. What they don’t realize is that a lot of the time, the fact that the spiritual truth corresponds to the gross/physical realm of experience is purely coincidental.

The fact of the matter is enlightened beings (humans, for our purposes) do not primarily speak from the same frame of reference as those who are still spiritual sleep walkers. Metaphorically speaking, enlightened folks are awake because they’re learned to use their eye of wisdom, while most people simply use their eyes of their bodies and minds. While this may happen spontaneously is an extreme minority of the awakened, most develop this capacity through good, consistent practice.

Prior to awakening, we are so stuck in our habitual mode of perception – our deeply engrained preference for body and mind – that anything outside of what we consider ordinary receives terms such as “altered states.” It’s silly, even ironic, to consider the deluded state as non-altered. To conflate the illusory with the real; to affirm the shallow as deep; to uphold delusion in place of wisdom; these are the symptoms of the sickness beings are plagued with – and they (read: most of you) don’t even know it!

I’m not one for politics. However, came across a phrase used by some libertarians to express the sentiment of being a part of the thoughtful minority. They say, “Truth is treason in the empire of lies.” How much more does that apply to reality as a whole? Enlightened folks train their minds beyond the baseline deluded capacities of the majority, and they peer into the nature of experience with laser-like precision. Not only do they discover truths about reality in general, but also the cause and cure of suffering. And what do the deluded say? “Bollocks. Rubbish. They’ve just learned to have state experiences. It’s their brains playing tricks on them. It’s a misapplication of neural mechanisms which evolved for a different purpose altogether. Everybody knows there’s only material. Any reasonable, sensible person knows there’s nothing beyond basic human perception.”

To that I say: Bollocks. Rubbish.

The same is true of some practitioners who have difficulties developing their eye of wisdom. They’re not good at training their attention, and thus haven’t been able to see into reality the way many others claim to. In attempt to validate their practice and insights to others, such an under-developed individual will likely endorse an interpretation of nondual teachings that allows them to fit within their model of what it means to be enlightened.

I find this approach to be very disingenuous, most of the time. What these people are saying is, “One doesn’t have to access this or that state, or train their attention to this or that degree, in order to be enlightened. To teach people this is disempowering and cruel. People suffer when their told that they are not good enough, and that’s just wrong.” I suspect what they mean is something more like, “Look I’ve been working my ass off for decades. If anyone should have been able to train their attention to the superlative degree, it would be me. When you tell others they have to do that, it makes me feel inadequate. I don’t like that, and I don’t like you because you’re the one saying this to me.” I would prefer the latter, because it’s honest, at least.

Bottom line: To get enlightened, it’s not enough to hear a teaching and apply it to your habitual, deluded baseline perceptual condition. Training, for most people, is absolutely required. Don’t think that you’re one of the special 0.000000001% (or fewer!) who can receiving a Dzogchen pointing-out instruction and realize full enlightenment without any practice.

Also, don’t sell yourself short. There are lots of valid ways to open and train the eye of wisdom. They have stood the test of time. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to pick one – seriously, just one – and follow the instructions, patiently and persistently, until you experience the appropriate stages that follow. This takes a lot of time. You’re not likely to master a practice in one month, or even one year. Do not deviate until you meet at least the minimum requirements of mastery, as outlined in whatever tradition you follow. This isn’t about dogma or religion. It’s just like learning a sport, or a musical instrument. If you don’t practice, and don’t follow the sequence, your form will be sloppy and you will not likely perform at the level you aspire to.

As Daniel Ingram once said, “[Don’t] settle for the chips and salsa, when [you] can get the big burrito.”


I just came across this excerpt from Bertrand Russell’s essay, Mysticism and Logic. It provides an exceptional example of delusion masquerading as intelligence:

“From a scientific point of view, we can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes. Each is in an abnormal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal perceptions. Normal perceptions, since they have to be useful in the struggle for life, must have some correspondence with fact; but in abnormal perceptions there is no reason to expect such correspondence, and their testimony, therefore, cannot outweigh that of normal perception.”

Let’s break it down, shall we?

“From a scientific point of view” – I’d like to know what he means by “scientific.” I would guess he is referring to empirical science, which takes as its object of study those perceptions that arise directly from the five senses. If so, then…

“we can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes.” – This is what happens when you think of everything in quantitative terms. Hallucinating and mystical visions are qualitatively different, which Russell would know if he put in the effort to have a mystical experience. (Just to be clearly, experiencing a heavenly vision is not the same as awakening.) When there is no qualitative hierarchy that clearly differentiates pre and post, both are seen as just non (Wilber’s “pre/trans fallacy). This is clear to enlightened folks. We know the difference between pre-egoic, egoic, and trans-egoic. Anyone who is operating from the perspective of ego will look at trans-egoic states as simply non-egoic, and lump them into the same category as pre-egoic. Russell is doing just that.

“Each is in an abnormal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal perceptions.” – There he goes again with lumping all abnormal (read: non-normal) physical conditions, along with their associated perceptions, into the same category; which are, of course, categorically “lower” than “normal” perceptions…

“Normal perceptions, since they have to be useful in the struggle for life, must have some correspondence with fact; but in abnormal perceptions there is no reason to expect such correspondence” – Once again, Russell makes a covert value judgment, preferring those perceptions which aid in the survival of the organism in its physical and vital form. And really, who can blame him? This is all he knows!* And although rooted in common sense, the assumption that all normal perceptions must have some correspondence with fact is not easy to support. The arrogance of this position is astounding.

“but in abnormal perceptions there is no reason to expect such correspondence, and their testimony, therefore, cannot outweigh that of normal perception.” – Oh, but it can – for those who have mastered the territory. This is analogous to saying that astronomical evidence collected using a telescope cannot outweigh normal perception, because telescopic perception serves no survival value. That’s what spiritual practice does – it calibrates your instrument; your eye of wisdom. For the enlightened, the testimony of the eye of wisdom far outweighs that of “normal” perception.

*I’m aware he is dead, but I don’t like writing in the past tense.


“That which is not present in deep dreamless sleep is not real.” -Sri Ramana Maharshi

The profundity of the above quotation cannot be fully unpacked in a simple blog post. However, I would like to use the quote as a pointer for the subject of this post.

The path to awakening brings lots of interesting experiences, particularly in the realm of states of consciousness. It would appear that the human mind (and perhaps other non-human minds) are stratified or layered. Through concentration, it is possible to access a wide range of experiences. Some are blissful, some are dull. Some are in the realm of dreams, others of the void. Many states are rather enticing, which is why so many great sages (including Ramana Maharshi) have warned against getting too caught up in them.

So, when Ramana refers to “deep dreamless sleep,” he’s pointing to a state of consciousness. In traditional Vedanta philosophy, there are three primary states of consciousness: gross/waking, subtle/dreaming, and causal/deep dreamless sleep. We are warned that the states themselves are not “real,” due to their changing nature. These states come and go. And although the state of deep dreamless sleep feels like freedom, it isn’t. It isn’t freedom because there’s no way to stay there. Clinging to any state will keep one immersed in sticky, murky delusion.

That’s not to say that states of consciousness do not have a place on the path to awakening. Quite the contrary, actually. For, it is in accessing these states that we discover that which exists in them all; or rather, that which is the essence of them all. In Vedanta, they call this the turiya, or the fourth state, which isn’t really a state at all. Turiya is the Witness – the aspect of reality which cognizes experience of the three basic states. And really, the only way we can really recognize that which persists through all three basic states is to access them all consciously. That’s why we meditate. And the Witness just so happens to be the cognizant aspect of the source.

Recognizing the Witness is not the end of the game. As I mentioned in a post on tracing back the radiance, recognizing the source is only the beginning. We must then trace it back. In so doing, the seeming separation between the Witness and the three states is seen through completely, and one eventually achieves Self-realization. Ramana called this awakened state of affairs turiyatita – that which beyond the fourth state, beyond the Witness.

Any way you look at it, awakening is not a state that you learn to hang out in. Recognize the essence of every state, trace it back, and awaken.