Sat·Chit·Ananda – Chuck Surface



When I speak of Bliss, I point to an Experience of Being in which…
The Ecstasy of Pure Being shines into conscious awareness;
Transcendence is shining into and as immanence;
The duality of Formless and Form, vanished;
Not simply “peace”, or “happiness”;
Shiva and Shakti, embracing;
The Heart’s Desire;



Advaita, as I encountered it during my sadhana in America, only rarely mentions Bliss; often only in precautionary terms in the context of sadhana, and usually only fleetingly, if at all, when describing the Liberated experience of being. I am familiar with the advaitic pedagogical model, and understand that advaita teachers don’t want their students to become attached to transient “states” or “objects” of perception, but rather to feel themselves as That within which all objects, sensations, perceptions, and states arise and vanish. Thus, for advaita students, “Bliss” is often portrayed as a dangerous trap, something to be dismissed (neti neti) as transient, ephemeral, “unreal”, and not to be confused with the unmoving, changeless Absolute, the experience of which is generally described with words like Peace, Happiness, and Joy.

The lack of descriptions of Bliss in the post-Liberation experience of advaitic realization is probably due to the notion that once one is Free, one will know for one’s self the nature of that condition, and therefore there’s no need to elevate what they see as dangerous and alluring “distractions” for those still seeking. Thus, there is rarely a fleeting mention of Bliss; and generally… Ecstasy is right out.

All of that being the case, my experience when I saw my advaita teacher, Jean Klein, was filled with Bliss; a palpable, visceral, extremely pleasurable yet unlocatable Ecstasy that both permeated and was inseparable from the entire Experience of Being. It was, for lack of any better term in relativity, a feeling of Orgasmic Ecstasy that, being “everywhere, yet nowhere”, transcended physicality or any of the other vast and varied aspects of manifest form, and yet… everything existed both “in” and “as” it. For me, the impact of residing in and as the Silence that Jean spoke of was the flooding of the Experience of Being with this Blissfulness I’m struggling to describe. But any mention of this would have been blasphemous, such things being “not spoken of.”

Jean KleinMore than all of his words, more than my clarity of understanding… something about being in proximity to Jean’s physical-energetic locus had this profound effect on me. Many advaitans go off the deep end if you mention such “phenomenality”. But this was my experience. The most “profound” teaching I received, the Transmission of the Flame, was wordless, and had everything to do with my Mystical relationship to this man, and yes… to association and even proximity; though merely the thought of him would give rise to the welling up of Bliss.

Bliss was, for me, unmistakably, a touch of nirvikalpa samadhi (the experience is described below), of formless Pure Being, Shining into manifest experience; water from that Ocean, warmth from that Sun, the Fragrance of what the Sufis call The Beloved, the Ananda of Sat·chit·ananda. How can formlessness possibly Shine into form? Volumes of words would fail to communicate what can only be known in Experience. As Jean would often say, “Now we will talk about that which cannot be talked about.” We talked… but it was not the words which conveyed That which was being spoken of, the Flame in his Heart igniting the ember in mine. Sounds quite dualistic, doesn’t it? However dualistic it may sound, I assure you it was not. This is the Ineffable nature of “true” Guru Yoga.

I already knew not to grasp after this Bliss, seeking to sustain and hold it as a “pleasurable experience”. I had been given this Great Teaching, paradoxically, by Bliss itself. For Bliss only arose when the acute “outer” focus of Attention relaxed “inward”, dissolving into its Oceanic nature as Unlocatable Aliveness. Then Attention, in that instant of inward-turning, was greeted by effortlessly arising Bliss. Shakti (manifestation) fell into the arms of Shiva (formless Pure Being), and the Ecstasy of their embrace became an inherent aspect of the Experience of Being, like wetness to water, or heat to fire. I did not see the inward turning and the upwelling of Bliss as cause and effect – a stance that put me somewhat at odds with Jean’s pedagogical stance – but rather as inherent aspects of Dissolution. For if Dissolution became Absolute, this “alloyed” Bliss would become the Unalloyed Ecstasy of nirvikalpa; the direct experience of formless Pure Being. If Attention grasped after the somatic “experience” of Blissfulness, as it reflexively did, early on… the movement into Dissolution ceased, and Bliss vanished.

My experience is that Bliss is the very fragrance of Pure Being (Consciousness, Awareness, whatever one calls the Unlocatable Aliveness that we are, prior to manifestation). Prior to Liberation, it was the fragrance that drew me to The Beloved, that taught me the “secret” of non-grasping, and abiding as Unlocatable Aliveness. It is the embrace of Shiva and Shakti in union as Shiva-Shakti, a union in which both vanish, all duality vanishes, even, quite impossibly, in the midst of duality.


Here’s the story of my first meeting with Jean Klein.

In November of ‘81, using feeling inquiry (before I knew what advaitic inquiry was), “I” died in Nirvikalpa Samadhi.


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Song of the Soul – Shankaracharya [Poetical Writings]

I am neither ego nor reason, I am neither mind nor thought,
I cannot be heard nor cast into words, nor by smell nor sight ever caught:
In light and wind I am not found, nor yet in earth and sky –
Consciousness and joy incarnate, Bliss of the Blissful am I.

I have no name, I have no life, I breathe no vital air,
No elements have molded me, no bodily sheath is my lair:

I have no name, I have no life, I breathe no vital air,
No elements have molded me, no bodily sheath is my lair:
I have no speech, no hands and feet, nor means of evolution –
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss in dissolution.

I cast aside hatred and passion, I conquered delusion and greed;
No touch of pride caressed me, so envy never did breed:
Beyond all faiths, past reach of wealth, past freedom, past desire
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is my attire.

Virtue and vice, or pleasure and pain are not my heritage,
Nor sacred texts, nor offerings, nor prayer, nor pilgrimage:
I am neither food nor eating, nor yet the eater am I –
Consciousness and joy incarnate, Bliss of the Blissful am I.

I have no misgivings of death, no chasms of race divide me,
No parent ever called me child, no bond of birth ever tied me:
I am neither disciple nor master, I have no kin, no friend –
Consciousness and joy am I, and merging in Bliss is my end.

Neither knowable, knowledge, nor knower am I, formless is my form,
I dwell within the senses but they are not my home:
Ever serenely balanced, I am neither free nor bound –
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is where I am found.


Adi Shankara


Premature Claims to Awakening – Scott Kiloby

Scott-KilobyYes, awakening happens.

Yes, awakening includes not identifying with thought, emotion, sensation.

Yes, awakening can involve subtle to powerful shifts in perceptions about the nature of reality and separation.

Yes, awakening is about seeing no self.



No, there is not one static event or state called awakening that everyone arrives at in some magical moment, never suffers again, and then holds hands in bliss, light and love eternally singing Kumbaya. Life is way too fluid to neatly fit into those kinds of static myths. That’s the stuff of spiritual poems that are written during spiritual highs. Notice that you often don’t see spiritual poems about the lows of spiritual awakening. It just doesn’t sell.

I can’t be an authority on all things related to awakening. I can only speak from my experience, so that’s what I will do. My experience includes my own unfolding and the thousands of people I have worked with and stayed in contact with through the years. Many of them are teachers.

Mostly, what gets passed off as awakening is a certain shifting that happens, where one sees that they are not the concepts in their heads. In awareness styled awakenings (there are different awakenings that look and feel differently in different traditions – awareness styled is just one), the shift usually involves some sort of non-conceptual realization of awareness, being, presence or no self that seems to be an end point at first. It can be a sudden or gradual shifting but people generally report this kind of change in perception. Things are seen to come and go within awareness inseparably or things seem to come and go but there is no self to be found (again, different teachings style the words and the realization differently). This head awakening, no matter how it is described, is often taken to be the Holy Grail. Some teachings are more sophisticated in the way they speak of this kind of realization, calling it liberation. Liberation is a strong word. I reserve that only for the kind of realizations that warrant such a tagline. And many of those claiming liberation do so prematurely. Remember the “rush to judgment” in the OJ Simpson case? A rush to awakening is the same kind of dire desire to be done, to firmly place on one’s resume “I have realized X and now there is nothing else to see or do.” It’s like shoving a flag in the ground on the moon’s surface. Out of wishful thinking, we think we can claim this territory. But usually it is the mind trying to claim the territory. Our actual experience reveals otherwise, but we often can’t see it at first.

In chakra terms, the head awakening is the opening of the crown and/or the mind’s eye chakra. Because this opening reveals a profound seeing that separate things, including a separate self, are not really there, it is easy to see why the proclamation of “I’m done” feels so appropriate at that juncture. In many ways, one is done – done with seeking as a self in time and in thought. But this is only a head awakening. Even in a head awakening, it can feel as if the body is open and transparent at first. But given time, areas of the body that are dense with the feeling of separation start to become conscious. This head awakening gets passed off as the Full Monte prematurely. We want so much to be done after years of seeking or suffering. It’s no wonder we want a head awakening to be the whole enchilada. But mostly, it is a half-baked enchilada. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with in sessions and at the Kiloby Center who had an initial awakening which was followed by addictions, obsessions, relationship and money issues, anxiety or depression years later.


Awakening (Agil Prakoso)

Agil Prakoso


The good news is that once the head awakening happens, the rest of the unfolding no longer has to be about seeking a future event (which is often how people approach the head awakening, as something that “will happen to me”). The “me” is made into toast at some point, revealing a lack of an inherent self and its time-bound story. There are plenty of teachings and methods that bring about that “no self” initial awakening. They are helpful and yet they are limited to the extent that they say that one is done when the head awakens.

There are at least two other big areas to be navigated after a head awakening.

  1. The body.
  2. The baggage of mental concepts around awakening itself.

Let’s start with the mental concepts. In my experience, there is a desire in many people to grasp mentally what has been realized. There are elaborate conceptual frameworks devised to “make sense” of awakening, just as this writing is a conceptual framework. Nothing wrong with having a conceptual framework, until it becomes the new mental prison.  Just as there is a rush to a head awakening, there is often a rush to neatly place the realization into certain conceptual boxes. There are many boxes. All the buzz words you hear in awakening circles can be imprisoning boxes including:

  • “we create our own reality”
  • “everything is just a concept”
  • “nothing is true”
  • “life is a divine mystery”
  • “oneness is the ultimate truth”
  • “no self”
  • “awareness”
  • “I AM”
  • “all there is, is THIS”
  • “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao”
  • “The Middle Way”

There is nothing wrong with boxes. They can be quite helpful in communication and quite cozy for the mind. But inevitably, when the box is mistaken for moment-by-moment living of the realization, everything that has been realized is reduced to some ideas and memories. People then speak and act from the memory or the ideas about awakening, rather than seeing awakening as a living, breathing, constantly unfolding moment-by-moment adventure. The archetype for this is the spiritual teacher who sits in front of the room proclaiming full realization while being addicted to sweets or involved with sex scandals or control issues in his/her personal life.

People can spend years after a head awakening endlessly identifying with all sorts of mental stuff around the awakening. This is the time when people desire to be teachers. I went through it. It’s really very innocent and comes from good intentions. But what gets passed off is only what a teacher has realized, nothing more.  And many times what gets passed off are ideas about static, fixed things that are taken to be objectively true and real. Spiritual experiences and realizations get concretized into doctrine or dogma or “this is the only way” type thinking.

Illustration by Ae TomaszewskaThe good news is that when one is ready, the boxes can be burned up in the fire of freedom, thrown away like yesterday’s garbage. At that point, what becomes important is the living of the realization itself, rather than the conceptualizing and understanding of it. Conceptualizing goes on, like with this writing. But things are held a lot more lightly and non-seriously. The Living Inquiries were born out of my experience of being first immersed in certain boxes and then turning attention towards the moment-by-moment living and seeing.

The body has its own say in the matter. There are other chakras – not just the crown and mind’s eye. The heart can feel heavy, dense and closed for years after a head awakening. So can the root chakra, the sacral, the stomach and the throat. If you think that none of this matters, watch what happens after a head awakening. You’ll see the continued arising of addictions, anxieties, self-limiting thoughts, grasping after understanding, issues with money, depression, big ego trips, issues with control and jealousy – all of it in one degree or another. I found this out by proclaiming that I was done too early. My issue was the continuation of certain addictions long after the head awakening. In my conversations with other teachers, they reported similar things. It takes a while, sometimes years, after a head awakening to fully see the darker, denser aspects of the body that remain closed. This is why becoming a teacher right after a head awakening is not a great idea. It’s like the blind leading the blind.

If you still don’t believe me, listen to Adyashanti. He speaks eloquently about the post-awakening dilemma. Somewhere between 3 to 7 years after an awakening, the other shoe drops. Everything that was held in the mind and body and that was not seen through in that awakening will come up and bite you in the ass. It’s like it all wants to be seen and released. And it can be painful. You can even wonder why you started the awakening process to begin with.

Again, the good news is that the unfolding can continue in the body, if you remain open. Some of the later work I did on the body (and still do) was truly the most liberating of all. When dense areas dissolve or open, it’s life-changing. If you are working with a friend or teacher who stopped at a head awakening, that’s all you will get, unless you break free of that mold and explore the unfolding with an attitude of complete openness.

Don’t worry, the body awakening part is not about seeking in the same way you were seeking in the beginning. Spiritual seeking comes from mind/head chakras that are closed. The body awakening doesn’t happen through seeking. It happens just from remaining open and working with those energies in skillful ways.


 Natural Rest



To read more about the body opening, check out my blogs here.

The Only Weatherman You Need – Nirmala [We’ve Been Asked]


Pic: Jessica Finotto

For this post we have a special Q&A selection from Nirmala’s Blog | Newsletter. We think these are very thoughtful and practical questions and perhaps many of our readers will benefit from exploring. Special thanks to Nirmala for allowing us to share this with you.


If someone has low self-esteem, confidence, and self-love, and has not awakened to True Nature, what can be done?

From a non-dual perspective, I know the answer is to wake up. But from a day-to-day perspective, even if we have had tastes of Presence, it is not much use if we are suffering deeply and are caught badly in the snare of mind – where we are barely functional and there is no sign of any significant spiritual shift in the cards.

  • Should we then put aside what we know to be Truth to shore up the ego and restore balance in our mind/body/persona – whatever that may look like?
  • To work on self-love, self-acceptance, little steps to re-engage with ourselves and the world around us?
  • This is a fuzzy/confusing area I find – must we have a healthy/functional ego/mind before we can hope to be free of that false identity?

I have heard some teachers insinuate or flat-out declare that so-called mental illness need not be an obstacle to awakening – and others that it is. And similar comments about anti-depressant/anxiety meds . Also, that we [the seekers] should not expect spiritual pursuit to address mental/emotional/life issues. Even if it may end up helping in these areas to one degree or another.

I have also heard some teachers (and critics) say that the ‘spiritual package’ (i.e. teachers, books, practices, sites, community) can be used as an escape from the things that hound us in our lives. That we can cherry-pick aspects of teachings, and interpret teachings, in such a way that suits our neuroses (such as: remaining single, or celibate, or only associating with like-minded/interested people, or clinging to a teacher as a parental/God replacement, etc).

It would be very helpful if you can speak on these things.


“My perspective is that there are many different sizes and levels of truth. These different levels of truth can seem contradictory when in fact they are complimentary, and often the smaller truth is contained within the bigger truth. A simple example of this is how when you are standing outdoors on a rainy day, the sky is cloudy and grey. But if you fly in an airplane over that same spot, the sky is clear and blue. Both things are true at the same time. The clear sky at the level of 35,000 feet is the bigger truth as it encompasses the entire planet, while the clouds and rain are only happening over a smaller area.

So when it comes to questions of how emotional and mental issues relate to bigger spiritual questions, the emotions and mental patterns are like the Nirmalaclouds within the larger expanse of our true nature as the limitless sky. How this practically works itself out seems to be completely unique for every person I have ever explored these questions with. So within the very big truth of the totality of existence, there are people whose spiritual life benefits from psychotherapy and even medication, and others who seem to be able to just wake up even while suffering from very painful and difficult conditioning. Conversely, some people are freed by spiritual teachings and practices and other people are caught by the same words and methods in a net of the ego.

There is no formula that works for everyone. And yet every formula also works for someone. This is why you can hear such seemingly contradictory statements about what matters and what does not matter from different teachers…or sometimes from the same teacher! They may be speaking generally from their own experience, or they may be speaking very specifically to what they see happening in the student or seeker right in front of them. All there is, is truth. Every perspective has at least a small part of truth to it, but there is no perspective that can be put into words that contains all the truth, or even all the truth about just this one question of how to approach our neurosis with a spiritual outcome in mind.

This is why I point to a more experiential way of discriminating the truth using your own heart. The truth is whatever in this moment opens your heart (or your sense of your self) and quiets your mind. And something that is less true tends to contract your heart and your sense of being while making your mind busier. This is a completely dynamic, ever-changing equation that is different for every person at each new moment of their lives. And it is also always relative: for one person a process that heals and clears emotions may be a wonderful expansion of their perspective and capacity to feel Presence, while for another person the same process is a contraction into a smaller truth.”


[Ed. Note: you can read more about this way of discriminating the truth using your heart via a free download of Nirmala’s book, Living from the Heart, available here.]



The important question is:

“What is true for you right here and right now, and at this particular point in your own spiritual unfoldment? Do the practices, therapeutic approaches and teachings you are involved with now generally open your heart, expand your sense of being, and quiet your mind? Or do they generally have the opposite effect? It helps to notice the general overall effect as every practice or therapy will have moments that are more or less expansive, in part because any practice or therapy will also trigger conditioned reactions to the process. Therefore the best question is what is the overall trajectory or overall climate of your involvement with a particular teaching or therapeutic approach? Does psychotherapy with a particular therapist open you up even more to big truths, or does it wrap you up even tighter in your pain? Does a particular anti-depressant free you from an oppressive neuro-chemical imbalance to be able to do spiritual inquiry and exploration, or does the medicine cause a contraction of your awareness that makes you less aware of everything including both your pain and your deeper nature?

It is also possible that the biggest truth is a combination of different truths. There is a tendency when a big truth is seen to use it to discount or ignore the smaller truths. This can lead to a situation where the smaller truth suddenly becomes unavoidable because it has been neglected. I often ask people who say that since there is no separate self that there is no need whatsoever for healing, where they would draw the line? If there is no need to actively address an emotional wound, does that mean there is no need to address a physical wound also? You can see the limitation of using a big truth to negate a smaller truth if you take an exaggerated example: would it make sense to just let someone bleed to death because after all, “There is no one that dies”?

Conversely, it is also obviously limiting to ignore or negate a bigger truth. I have found it a more effective and balanced approach to work with psychological issues within a bigger spiritual perspective. It is often when we are shifting in and out of the different levels of truth that the most profound transformations happen. If we have both feet in our traumatic conditioning, then reliving or exploring the pain often just re-traumatizes us. And if we have both feet in a vast empty experience of the absolute, the experience is profound, but does not usually effectively release or heal our conditioning. It is when we have one foot in both dimensions, or when we are shifting in and out of both perspectives, that the potential for lasting healing and transcendence is the greatest.

It does not make sense to think the world is coming to an end when there are dark clouds overhead, and it does not make sense to carry an open umbrella on a sunny day, just in case the weather might change. The truth that matters most is the weather that is happening now, and if we pay attention to that, we can also learn more about the climate overall. Why limit yourself to only exploring and enjoying one type of weather? Why not explore and enjoy it all, and learn the importance and significance of every size of truth that shows up? Ultimately, your own heart and its direct sense of how true things are can be the only weatherman you need. It is a trustworthy guide when there are so many levels and shapes and sizes of truth out there.”


Nirmala invites questions for his blog. Visit:


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