Q & A with Dr. Robert Saltzman #2
The following is a reply to a question from someone who has followed the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta, both of whom advised concentration on the feeling “I AM” as a means to obtain “realization.”
This piece has made the rounds on Facebook. Apparently it hit a nerve with many. Robert thought perhaps it would go well on our site.
TOPIC: Obtaining Realization
A questioner said that some recent criticism of her practice from another so-called “teacher” had shaken her faith in her practice, leaving her confused and upset.
Here is what I told her:
“At a certain point, advice and words from anyone—Nisargadatta, Ramana, or the man in the moon—cease to have meaning. Those words may have served as a pointer along the way, and that’s fine, but sooner or later you will have to forget ALL those words and go it alone. This is why it is said that if you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him.
If you do not kill the Buddha, you will remain forever a disciple and never actually find the ground of your OWN being, which has nothing to do with words, no matter how good those words sound or how many people repeat them. That ground is here right now. What you seek is what you already are, and does not have any relation to how Nisargadatta lived or how Ramana Maharshi lived. They were not “gods,” but ordinary human beings just like you. Nisargadatta liked sex and cigarettes, and died of throat cancer.
In the beginning, the words from those guys may have encouraged and inspired you, and that’s fine, but if you cling too long to a teaching, any teaching, it will blind you to your OWN life, your OWN being, your OWN truth.
If I point at the moon, my dog will look at my finger and not even see the moon. Why? Because the dog is attached to me, and loves everything I do. The dog sees me as if I were an all-powerful, all-knowing “God.” Perhaps you feel that way about Nisargadatta or Ramana Maharshi. If you do, it is time to kill them as role models. When I say “kill” them, I do not mean any disrespect. You will continue to feel grateful to them for helping to bring you to this moment, but, if you want freedom, you must find that freedom within YOURSELF without reference to anyone else’s opinions or teachings. As long as one clings to anything—teachings, teachers, religions, practices—whatever—there IS no freedom. Clinging and freedom do not go together, and cannot exist in the same mind.
“Only YOU can know if you really want freedom or not. Many claim they do, but most who claim to want freedom do not want freedom, but only want to feel better or happier.” ~R.S.
If I give you a glass of water to drink, and you take a sip, you do not have to ASK yourself if the water is warm or cold. You just KNOW. That “just knowing without trying” is what I call “choiceless awareness.” It is present at all times and in all situations. Within or upon that choiceless awareness (which you do not have to try to summon up or create) arises everything that you see, feel, think, perceive, or come to know in any way at all.
If you have a thought, that thought is an impression upon choiceless awareness. If you feel an emotion, that feeling is an impression upon choiceless awareness. Your body image and your sense of selfhood are impressions upon choiceless awareness. All of this happens instantaneously, automatically, and without any trying. In fact, it cannot be controlled. If you have ever sat in so-called “meditation,” you soon became aware that your thoughts were not chosen at all, but simply arose on their own. Those thoughts arose upon choiceless awareness which is present whether you are sitting on a cushion or having an orgasm.
That choiceless awareness IS you. It is not yours to control, but simply is, simply exists. What you more ordinarily think of as “me” is a collection of feelings, thoughts, autobiographical fictions, etc. which are part of “story you tell yourself” about “me,” but all of that arises and is known as an impression upon choiceless awareness. The “story you tell yourself” is NOT “you,” not the real you, but an habitual, repetitive story—a habit. “You”—the real you—are the awareness which is present constantly without anyone’s trying, and beyond anyone’s ability to control. That is why I call it “CHOICELESS awareness.”
Now, “I AM” is not a fact, it is a thought, an idea. Advising someone to practice remembering “I AM” is a pointer, and for you that pointer has worked well. It has brought you to this point. It worked by reminding you that you have a life at all, that you actually exist. Now it is time to let that procedure go. You may need a raft to cross a river, but when you arrive at the other side, you put the raft down and walk on. If you insist on bringing the raft with you, you will not be able to walk freely. Now it is time to walk freely!
As soon as you see that awareness is choiceless, is always present, and requires no trying, you will begin walking without that “I AM” raft you no longer need. You have crossed the river. On this side of the river, the only “work” is to allow whatever arises in or upon choiceless awareness to be there for its moment, and to pass away again. There is no permanency in any of those arisings. Even the story called “myself” is only a brief appearance upon the choiceless awareness which is here now, and always was, from the moment of birth. When the “me” in the story I tell myself understands this, freedom, without trying, simply is.”
Dr. Robert Saltzman is a psychotherapist and [non-teacher] of non-duality who lives and works in Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico. In addition to his therapy practice, he takes questions about psychology, spirituality, and problems of living from questioners world-wide on his website.
The site is the home of ask Dr. Robert, a unique question and answer forum open to everyone worldwide, gratis. The forum is fairly active and has many forum regulars—many of whom bring intelligence, experience, and wisdom to these online conversations.
Robert checks in on the forum regularly and contributes if and when necessary.