It was 2005, October to be exact, and it had rained incessantly in Mumbai from early in the year. This was supposed to be the nice time in India but there I was, in the oppressive humidity and heat, swaying in my normal swinging chair listening to satsang. My mentor, Ramesh Balsekar, was in top form in his hour and a half of daily peppering from seekers who would come from around the world to ask a question or two. And for the hundredth time, or so it seemed, I heard Ramesh describe one of his answers as “my concept”. To those familiar with the spiritual search, and especially followers of the path of Advaita, it is impossible to call out anything as mine, his, or hers. For in the space of awakening, the always existent non-duality is a permanent felt experience in which all phenomenon, including this so called “you” arises. A felt experience of who? If there is no one there, how could this experience along to anyone and further how could anyone claim a concept to be theirs?
Of course, the perspective being expressed by Ramesh was all too familiar as it already resided in my own living understanding. It is as much mine as concepts belong to Ramesh. It had been some years prior that the full blossoming of the seeker’s quest had exploded into and permanently altered life as I had known it. But what was making itself known that day was the dicey proposition of describing one context from an entirely different one. To call something “my concept” in the egoic story in which we conduct our entire life makes perfect sense. However, when the pillars of ego construction have collapsed, the language of possibility only lives in the context that no longer occupies the lived experience of arising consciousness. It’s a different story, yes it’s a story, immune to concept and separation but a story of lived experience nonetheless. Thus much like the sighted man describing a colorful world to a blind man, all one can do is point. This pointing must be done in the structure and language of the experience from which one is coming not that of the unknown awaiting story. In the case of non-duality, this is even made more difficult as language itself is not a necessary part of the awakened reality.
It is exactly this apparent chasm that separates great forays into intellectual learning from the seeker’s quest for enlightenment or awakening from the felt sense of bondage. In the language of story, these two movements in consciousness simply live in different tangibilities. Unfortunately the markers and distinctions that would advise the normal participant in either story have proven both difficult to come by and near impossible to hold. Because of the nature of the wisdom story, being experientially based rather than intellectually constructed, the assumptions of the intellectual story constantly derail and interrupt the seeking journey. Why is that? It’s because we live in an intellectually based constituency as humans and therefore operate within a set of largely unquestioned assumptions, no matter the nature of the journey we undertake. For instance, the goal of intellectual pursuits focuses on finding a fixed and defined idea superior to other ideas against which it is compared. The assumption clearly is that ideas can be captured somewhat akin to a photographic moment. And once captured that the still photos of intellect have something to do with the moving cinematography of life itself. Notice the next time you undertake a discussion to explore some arena in which you are seeking some level of clarity. If you stop for a moment you will notice that you likely are building a concept that will outcompete or dominate other concepts. That is to say there is some assumption within you that an answer you seek is embedded in the most competitive concept that you can construct. But is that how learning happens? It is certainly what we are taught.
In a wisdom path, however, intellectual assertions are nothing more than pointers to a possible experience in being. Additionally there is an earnestness that is required within each seeker to search for the assumptions that live themselves unconsciously into every moment in the ego story. Because in the world of non-duality there are no two sides to anything. There is only consciousness revealing itself to itself. That revealing places intellectual prowess, as we have learned it, in an entirely new relationship to you as an ego in the awakened story. Ramesh Balsekar used to refer to that prowess as the” dubious gift of intellect”. This was due to the stubborn insistence that most individual seekers retain by attempting at all costs to insert intellectual construction into an experience in which intellect is not resident at all. Now this isn’t anti-intellectual but rather a repositioning of that attribute into the story that most call awakening.
How can intellect be such a roadblock? Think for a moment of our normal approaches to learning. They are linear and normally one concept is built on a prior one. Think of all your studies in your life. Accounting, geometry, history, and English, they all are taught in a linear frame utilizing building blocks arrayed from simple to more complicated. This is such an instilled process that when followed in a disciplined manner we commonly refer to it as “intellectual rigor”. However, there is another way of learning and the wisdom path is simply one of those. It doesn’t worship convergent thought, with its linear and constructed essences, over divergent thought which contains neither of those essences. It isn’t even comparative. It subscribes to a learning that is iterative. That is to say that the same pointer may easily be used over and over again each time landing in a different way and serving at a different point in the journey.
In most traditions the requirement to become a teacher is the mastery of a certain level of dexterity within the context of that tradition. This normally is an amalgamation of intellectual concepts and the perceived ability to maneuver within them. Of course, this typical approach is one that lives in the story of intellect and ego. That is to say that a certain person, and ego concept, acquires acuity in a subject area and is now deemed, by those imbued with that approval power, to be a teacher. In the traditions of seeking there is no measurement of accumulated content or skill in delivering such content. Rather the pointers to the next story of awakening, enlightenment or non-duality can only be delivered from that story itself. There is no approval process, degree or tenure. In the East for thousands of years there has been a tradition of gurus and followers. These gurus are simply those who have awakened and, if so compelled, deliver pointers back to those who wish to follow them. Without doubt this tradition has been subject to a variety of contemporary intellectual inquiries attempting to analyze which might be pure and powerful and which might not. As one would imagine these exercises live entirely in the world of intellect and ego and really never penetrate awakening as an arising possibility in a new story. Further, they have no way of valuing the delivery of wisdom but are simply a regression into typically unconscious stubbornness of intellect. A stubbornness that assures itself that it knows what all blind men know about color.
When Ramesh would use his term “my concept” he was just alerting his followers that he was utilizing bits of the story of separation to point to a consciousness in which separation simply doesn’t exist. A story with parts pointing to a larger story of non separation in which parts simply don’t exist.