There are two common kinds of phenomena when practicing Self-Inquiry and Non-Duality. The first comes with bold experiences, and the second one almost or without any, having only a noticeable “change” of an understanding that brings peace of mind. Whichever is the “path” that a person takes is relevant.
- Mystic and substantial EXPERIENCES
- NO mystical experiences, only a straightforward understanding.
The Fishermen Metaphor
Think of it as two fishermen:
Fishermen “A” is a seasoned fisherman who knows to fish at the right times, goes where other fishermen aren’t willing to fish, knows how to reel in their catch slowly, thinks ahead, uses colorful fly lines, keeps a journal, etc.
He spent the weekend camping by the river. A thunderstorm hit his camping site the first day, so he was not able to fish.
The next day, he had a close encounter with a bear. He was able to scare it away, shooting his rifle near it.
Luckily things do not get out of hand. He manages the situation and can survive unharmed.
On his last day, he was finally able to fish before leaving. In the end, he was able to catch a rare unknown fish.
Fishermen “B” goes down by the bay to walk and relax. He finds fishing gear for rental and decides to give it a try. He catches a rare unknown fish.
Both achieved the same result, a rare unknown fish. Neither had control of the outcome, nor can they lecture anyone on how to replicate the result of catching a rare fish.
However, Fishermen “A” can describe a long list of personal life-changing experiences and might even have recommendations on what to do to increase your chances. Fishermen “B” would say, “it just happened.”
Similarly, with Self-Inquiry and Non-Duality, the “road,” experiences, and the journey are unimportant.
The “means to an end” is also irrelevant. Forget about misleading words like “Awakening” or “Enlightenment,” these are nonsense; give your attention to the nature of who you are.
Those words have lost meaning and are commonly misinterpreted as something mystic, unattainable, and exotic. We are better off staying away from those terms to avoid confusion; we can call it peace of mind or realize our “own” nature.
To understand this subject more in-depth, we will focus on the journeys of a few known “teachers” of nonduality. We will cover some who have been through MANY mystical experiences to those who never had any.
The Mystical Experiences Of Self-inquiry And Non-duality
Experiencing visions and witnessing miracles are common in this world of exploration. These occurrences seem to have one sole purpose, seducing the mind, which would eventually help by transcending that same mind’s seductive nature. These stories below will help to clarify this last point.
Richard Alpert (a.k.a. Ram Dass). – From psychedelics to hardcore spiritual practices, Richard Alpert, also known as Ram Dass, was one of, if not the most influential American spiritual teachers.
Considered a pioneer in the field for introducing Eastern Spirituality to the Western culture during the seventies, making his teachings available in his classic book “Be Here Now,” a masterpiece within the world of new-age Spirituality, yoga, and meditation.
‘I can do nothing for you but work on myself…you can do nothing for me but work on yourself!’Ram Dass, Be Here Now.
If we want an example of someone who had innumerable mystical trips and experiences, we do not need to look elsewhere. Ram Dass begins his spiritual journey while working at Harvard University as a professor back in the ’60s, where he meets Timothy Leary and is introduced to psychedelics.
They carried personal and academic “experiments,” which lead them from explorative “spiritual” findings and psychological epiphanies to finally finding themselves expelled from the university. Below is a small clip of a conversation during his years at Harvard.
Ram Dass’s Experiences
During his psychedelic “chapter,” he claimed to have two MAIN experiences, a sense of unity and love, and a disassociation with personhood and roles.
The most intriguing discovery was the incredible similarity and relation between the descriptions of death in The Tibetan Book of The Dead and their individual reported experiential results during a psychedelic trip.
But regardless of all his findings and epiphanies, he found himself discouraged by the ephemeral nature of psychedelic trips. He would describe it as a temporary VIP pass, where you have had a beautiful “high,” followed by a depressing “low.”
He decided to take a trip with friends and visit some countries around the world. The adventure ended with an encounter with Neem Karoli Baba in India.
This “being,” Ram Dass said, was already “up there” in that state, without the need for any psychedelics, he was “high” and never came “down.”
“I was looking for somebody that could read the maps of my consciousness. He was the map.”
This encounter took him into a world of unexplainable phenomena and miracles that caused his intellect to collapse.
Neem Karilo Baba left his body in 1973, but Ram Dass continued sharing his experiences with his Guru through seminars, audios, videos, books, and talks for decades until his last breath.
Before Ram Dass passed away, he said:
“About the miracles, Maharajji would say, “What is this? This is all foolishness.” He could do miracles, but the greatest miracle was that he could turn one’s heart and mind toward God, as he did for me.”Ram Dass
Sri H. W. L. Poonja, known as “Poonjaji” or “Papaji.”
Papaji was an Indian sage known for his teaching of Self-enquiry, following the example of Ramana Maharshi.
Having an overwhelming experience of “Realization” at an incredibly young age, Papaji grew up worshiping the Hindu God Krishna.
He grew to adulthood, having visions, apparitions, and manifestations of many other Indian divinities, with which he claimed could interact.
Until the age of 44, he meets Sri Ramana Maharshi, an encounter that ended his search and dissolved his need for Gods, external projection, duality, and questions.
People who spent time near him confirmed that his journey never ceased having strange phenomena, miracles, and mystical experiences. Nevertheless, Papaji had no interest in sharing or exploring these experiences.
However, Papaji would always advise his students that the wisest thing was to give up the search and REMAIN QUIET, guiding the question back to the source of the questioner. “Find out who you are!” he would suggest again and again.
The Absence Of Mystical Experiences During Self-inquiry And Non-duality
The other side of this coin presents a realization of one’s nature WITHOUT the presence of profound hardcore experiences. If we pay close attention to the examples above, all these three teachers encourage everyone to stop seeking experiences and shift their focus towards the source of the seeker.
We can attribute Rupert Spira and Eckhart Tolle as perfect examples for this “no-experience” phenomenon. These “spiritual” teachers have stated no mysticism other than a sublime recognition of their “own” nature.
Let´s begin with Eckhart Tolle. Born in Lünen, Germany, Eckhart Tolle is considered the most popular spiritual author in the United States; he is a Spiritual teacher best known for his work on best-selling books The Power of Now and A New Earth.
Eckhart Tolle says that he lived in depression, anxiety, and suffering for most of his life. He studied philosophy, psychology, and literature; after graduating from the University of London, he received a scholarship offer which he took and dropped soon after.
At the age of 29, Tolle experienced a sudden epiphany. As many times before, he woke up one night with an unbearable feeling of depression. This occurrence was a typical routine for him; however, this night, something different happened.
“I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this, a question arose without an answer:
Who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self?
What is the self?
I felt drawn into a void! I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed.
It dissolved. The next morning, I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness,” just observing and watching.”Eckhart Tolle
A realization that didn’t arrive with experiential mysticism; it was merely a recognition of the nature of who he is. Following is a video of this anecdote described by Eckhart Tolle himself.
After a few years, the understanding has sunk entirely and was finally ready to be expressed and shared with others who, for whatever reason, would approach and engage in conversations with him about the subject. Shortly after this event, he began speaking to larger groups, which resulted in his book The Power of Now.
His message is simple:
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life. Say YES to the present moment.”Eckhart Tolle
We close this exploration with the most prominent international teacher on Neo Advaita, Mr. Rupert Spira. Similar to Eckhart Tolle, Rupert’s shift did not come with a “parade” of experiences but was instead a single understanding happening in an instant.
Rupert’s recognition of its “own” nature came during a conversation with his teacher Francis Lucille. They were inquiring about the nature of the apparent separation between the experience of sensory perception and unity.
Francis asked Rupert to place his hands down on the floor; he asked him to close his eyes and question him. Where does the “knowing” of the experience of touching the carpet reside? Is it there on the floor, or is it in you? Isn’t everything just the knowing of experience?
This simple question triggered an understanding in Rupert; it was evident that all there is, is the “knowing” of experience. Here´s Rupert reflecting on this recognition.
The most significant discovery when taking this journey is that NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY for anything. Meditation, practices, methods, or any other activities to enhance life, fix Karma, having mystical trips, etc., are NOT needed; they become an obstacle.
When all experience vanishes, what remains is The Self
Although words, stories, philosophies, recommendations, and teachings might help a person´s journey, keep in mind that anything shared from “others” is more of a DESCRIPTION of their particular experience and NOT a PRESCRIPTION on what to do and how to live your life.
Of course, use it as guidance if it’s something that resonates with you, but remember that your point and state of consciousness and where you´re at this moment is exactly where you’re “supposed” to be because it is EXACTLY where you’re at. Honor that, explore as much as you feel inclined to, and live life peacefully.
Try these 5 Minute Meditation Exercises inspired by methods & teaching from Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi, Adyashanti, Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba, and many other truthful and honest teachers.