A hot potato
Philip Renard

Almost everyone who realizes their true nature agrees that a certain period of integrating the realisation is necessary, as a so-called 'ripening' stage. But not everyone shares the necessity of exchanging information about that particular stage. Many people indicate, or show, that speaking about it simply is impossible, since consciousness is all there is and anything that looks slightly 'different' does not need further attention. The integration, which is happening by itself because any form of 'doership' is gone, does not require any comment at all. For me that is not only a pity but incorrect as well.

Why? Because this way all kinds of elementary things, that will no doubt present themselves on the level of ordinary human interrelating, can be stashed away. Andrew Cohen created an expression for this, he calls it the 'Advaita Shuffle', the Advaita fast-change trick. Although Andrew is holding on too strongly to this issue (based upon the fundamental mistake that 'one is what one does'), I still like the expression 'Advaita Shuffle' for what I mean here. It points to secretly (or unconsciously) removing a subject that is experienced as threatening or uneasy to a level where that uneasy matter has 'dissolved'; in other words dissolved into the very substance it consists of indeed: Consciousness itself, pure Knowing. A smuggletrick is used in order not to be accountable as an individual (because 'the individual' is seen as unreal). And that accountability is precisely what this is all about.

What actually is accountability?
It means being open to the reality of all levels, no matter how temporal and relative, and being ready to resonate with those levels. It also means a readiness to listen to comments or observations that may refer to a specific attitude which could be a blind spot for us. Even though one has seen and 'experienced' deeply that one is nothing else but undifferentiated, homogeneous Consciousness, one still is, when relating to people, a visual and behaving figure who could be mistaken sometimes. And nothing or no one is getting any benefit from hiding behind 'Consciousness' when one is mistaken.
Padmasambhava, who was one of the masters that introduced in the 8th century with Dzogchen the most essential element into Tibetan Buddhism, had no doubts whatsoever about this subject. In a text (in which the expression 'view' - ltaba in Tibetan - refers to seeing from the recognition of one's true nature) he says:
'Do not lose the view in the conduct;
If you lose the view in the conduct, you will never have the chance to be liberated.
Do not lose the conduct in the view;
If you lose the conduct in the view, you stray into black diffusion.'
He shows us the two poles of error. The first pole is the unending polishing of the person, the attitudes or conduct, leading to the fact that the 'view' of one's true nature stays hidden behind the horizon. The second pole - which the great 20th century Dzogchen teacher Tulku Urgyen calls even worse than the first pole - points to the fact that, because the view shows that good and bad do not exist, one thinks that in his conduct there is no good and bad either. That is the reason why Tulku Urgyen emphasizes that view and conduct should be clearly distinguished. The way one behaves should be in harmony with ordinary human 'worldly' values and distinctions.
Padmasambhava also said: "Though the view should be as vast as the sky, keep your conduct as fine as barley flour." In other words, even someone like Padmasambhava, who is considered in Tibet a 'second Buddha', with his complete realisation of nonduality, kept emphasizing that every inch of our behavior is worth our attention. And until today that is being taught in this form of Tibetan Buddhism. (Maybe it is good to mention here that the Tibetan Buddhism we talk about - Dzogchen - is totally based upon immediate recognition. So nobody will get the impression that the attention for earthly things stands for an unending preparatory period as is the case in so many other schools of Buddhism).

Why do I give this so much attention here, in the context of Advaita, and why do I refer to it as a 'hot potato'? Because I myself have experienced directly how unaccountable (and undisputable) certain conduct still is in Advaita circles. Especially when a teacher's conduct is concerned, everything becomes very vague. Because it is always a matter of power. And I don't mean power in the sense of open tyranny. No, that would be too easy, since it is so obvious. Rather we talk here about power that is seductive, that operates through seduction, through charisma, through the use of invisible attraction. By the attraction the students find themselves in the position of wanting very badly to receive something - spiritual 'food' - and through that hunger their own integrity is sacrificed.
That is caused by what in psychology is called 'transference'. Transference means that those who raised us as a kid - father, mother, caretakers - are existing in us as psychic 'slides'. We are projecting those slides on anyone from whom we, in the present, hope to get food (in this case spiritual food). This projecting happens spontaneously, completely unconsciously. Fearing that we won't get any more food if we honestly say that a certain kind of behavior is hurting, we'll keep our mouth shut. This is the only way a powergame can keep on going: thanks to the fear of being cut off from the food source.

Alexander Smit, who was my teacher in the eighty's, told us that a teacher is confronted with three pitfalls: power, sex and money. Later, when I said that according to me he had stepped into all three pitfalls, he wasn't willing to go into this. In spite of his emphasis on the importance that 'nothing should be denied' he did not seem to be open for the invitation to investigate whether he might have been mistaken about certain things.
It is not my intention to discredit Alexander. I will always be grateful for what he has given me concerning the 'view'. Also our friendship is still alive in my heart.
This is not about blaming someone. Everyone makes mistakes - perfect behavior is not possible. That's not what this is all about. This is about being ready to communicate, being open to investigate one's own inclinations if they bother others, including the drive for power, dishonesty, disloyalty, greed, etc.: anything that causes pain in someone else. If this readiness is lacking, one is passing on untruth. If one escapes to the level of undefined Consciousness, something that is definitely experienced by someone is changed into something that is doubted. And that will surely happen if someone else is considered 'further' or 'higher'. It means undermining the trust in one's own intuition, the deepest knowing of the 'individual', which at the same time carries the seed of the timeless that one is. Hence the importance of especially not undermining this.

This phenomenon is even more prevalent when 'enlightenment' is the issue. "He is enlightened and I am not" is about the deepest base for the above mentioned balance of power, hand in hand with the giving up of truth. For that reason I do object against easy claiming things like 'enlightenment' and 'Self-realisation'. They have become status expressions. I would for instance only use the term 'enlightenment' for some rare cases, such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Dilgo Khyentse, Tulku Urgyen, etcetera, since all classic scriptures concerning the 'Direct Path' (be it Dzogchen, Zen or Advaita) agree about one thing: 'enlightenment' (that is 'complete 'Self-realisation', or 'complete liberation', or 'complete buddhahood') means that all karmic traces have burned up. And that is exactly what the expression 'liberation' means: liberation from the karmic traces which make us move on and on in the form of 'inclinations' (vasana's). For an enlightened one all potential inclinations have simply ended, leaving no traces behind.
Who of us can claim that? Yes, we can say that we do not any longer identify with the inclinations. That is certainly one step. Hence I prefer the expression 'realisation' for a certain stabilisation (in Dzogchen one speaks in terms of different realisations, as in stages. In modern Advaita such things are considered nonsense, due to Ramana who said that in realisation or mukti there are no stages. However, he also said that realisation is the state in which presence and absence of the body is no longer noticed).
This 'being stabilised' is the acknowledgment that seeking has came to an end. By using a different expression for 'enlightenment', I do not mean that after 'realisation' there is still a seeking for 'enlightenment'. No, absolutely not. Seeking is no more possible, since there is a deep seeing that one exists of nothing else but that what's being sought. The functioning figure however, is still reacting on impulses from a (possibly contaminated) past, and any denial of that is not useful and often very painful.

Seen in that light it may be interesting to know (as I was told by a very reliable source) that Papaji, who is one of the teachers that can be considered responsible for the outburst of enlightened people at this time and age, when asked to name the people that he considered enlightened, wrote down some names but none of his enlightened students was mentioned!
Fortunately there are signals showing a certain acknowledgment of the difference between the state of realisation and the state of complete enlightenment, even though other expressions are used. For instance, Papaji's student Isaac Shapiro is becoming more and more open about acknowledging that difference. There is a video available where Isaac and Francis Lucille are talking with one another (in 1999 Amsterdam). At the end there is a very interesting fragment which could be used to communicate in follow up conversations. Isaac and Francis talk about the miracle of consciousness offering everything as a kind of awesome disclosure or revelation that has no end to it. At a certain point Isaac remarks: "Ramana says that there is an end to it", and the way he says it makes it clear to me that he is confronted with the difference between Ramana and himself. Francis does not agree with any of this and says that there would be no life left if there would be an end to it. Isaac however keeps pointing to the special fact that Ramana ("as one of the utterly rare ones, one in a billion") has possibly pointed to the stage in which "ripples are no more appearing". Then Isaac says that it feels to him that something like that is also meant by Buddhists.

I agree with what Isaac is saying here (and may have said before, but I don't know about that). Here he is actually breaking the 'code' that seems to go with the idea that 'having seen it' would be sufficient and that results in the fact that possible mistakes and confusion stay hidden behind the scenes. In the phase between what I call 'actual realisation' and 'complete enlightenment' pitfalls are still possible. According to me acknowledgment of that creates the necessity to exchange thoughts. Without that acknowledgment exchange is indeed out of the question.
"A jnani is no saint," Alexander used to say. Indeed, that is a very useful statement when talking to a seeker. A seeker is not helped with a roundabout of judging behavior - he knows that road too well. Only the invitation to recognize one's true nature now, is useful for the seeker. I call that 'the first level'. For those who are sufficiently rooted in their true nature though, the 'saint'-concept is not something that means forcing yourself. Any movement of aspiration has disappeared, so why emphasis on the aspect of 'not being a saint'? On what I call 'the second level' (the level where inclinations can be witnessed from one's true nature, or from love) such a statement can only work as a defense.

This is what I call the 'hot potato'. According to me there is no need to fear the heat. Let's simply touch it and communicate.

[Philip Renard]