Satsang Reports
Been there, done that, from our non-partisan roving reporters ( * )
This page is from Jim Carruth
See also the Adya report from Bobby Meizer

Adyashanti June 26, 2005

I got to the Tustin Unity Church about a half hour early. I didn’t really expect to be allowed in, but I felt it was worth a try. I had my neck in an Aspen collar brace and a story to tell about my being on disability and having no money due to being out of work for the last six months. 

The truth is, my wife and I have been trying to dig ourselves out of the debt we’d accumulated over the last six months while I was having my neck operated on, and the subsequent healing from the neck surgery.

Because of these pressures, my wife and I had recently begun fighting over money - something we rarely do. Even though the admission to see Adyashanti was $70, and under any other circumstances I would have been happy to pay, I was in a bit of a dire straight financially. Here I was, wanting something that wasn’t terribly expensive, but simply couldn’t afford at the time. I had no idea when Adyashanti would be visiting Southern California again. I figured I’d throw myself at the mercy of the Tustin Unity Church, and accept their answer whichever way it went. At least I could drive home knowing I had made the attempt, rather than sitting home and wishing I’d at least tried. You don't ask, you don't get.

“Hold on a moment,” the smiling woman behind the bookstore counter said to me. “Let me ask.” She came back two minutes later with a ticket, and another lovely smile for me. “Enjoy,” she said. Immediately I felt humbled and deeply grateful. For years I’d read on ads and flyers for spiritual events words to the effect that “no one will be turned away due to lack of funds,” but those events were usually only $25 or less, and I’d never really had to put it to the test until now. Asking someone for a $70 admission to be waived was a tad humiliating, but after six months of being ill and learning to let other people do things for me, I was becoming familiar with humiliation, and a kind of acceptance that goes with it.

The bookstore woman's gesture moved me deeply, and along with the feeling of humiliation came a deep feeling of gratitude. Still, it was not a humiliation of the ego. More like a feeling of awe. It was a good, cleansing kind of humiliation. After all, I was being let in to see Adyashanti, which I wanted very much. And the smile on the woman’s face in the store had spoken to me, saying “You belong here today. We want you here. Welcome.” Whew! And I hadn’t even stepped inside the door to the sanctuary yet!

Bright day, beautiful flowers and grounds surrounding me, my sun hat on my head, the Tustin Unity Church has a beautiful aura of peace and healing that I can’t really describe. It’s like the whole place is saying, “We’re here to help you along your path to become enlightened, in as beautiful and as peaceful a setting as we can possibly provide.” I had been here twice before, once to see Andrew Cohen, and once to see Leslie Temple-Thurston. I got in line and soon took my seat in the sanctuary where they regularly hold their Sunday church services and special events.

Adya took the stage and welcomed us. He seemed genuinely pleased to be there, instead of the slightly ill-at-ease feeling I remember getting from Andrew Cohen. I don’t remember word for word what he said. I don’t think I want this Satsang Report to go that way. You know those jeans ads that never once show a pair of jeans in them? That’s how I want this report to go. I suppose a good city desk editor, in the parlance of old journalism, would call this report a “side bar.” Either that, or he’d kick me out of his office and tell me to come back with a story with more about the jeans.

I rarely ask questions at these events, but with Adya I felt comfortable and he felt approachable. I decided to ask since the subject came up, about his realization story. It had been published in his “Emptiness Dancing,” book and he was now discussing it with the group. I asked for the microphone, stood up, and asked, “In Emptiness Dancing, when you said ‘Oh my God, I’ve awakened out of Zen,’ was that moment a shock to you, or more a feeling of liberation?”

He said it had been more liberating than shocking. “All these things we do, these practices to become enlightened become superfluous and fall away after realization,” he said, “But somehow help us get there before we’ve had that realization experience. It’s a mystery, really.”

He said that he had been very hard-headed and stubborn during his sadhana, so all that mental struggling he did on his meditation cushion was a battle he was fighting with himself to become awakened. Once he became spontaneously awakened, he no longer needed practices to maintain it. No robes, techniques, or ceremonies anymore. He was free of all that. Liberated from them, you might say. From then on, he eschewed mental or spiritual manipulation of any kind, in favor of this spontaneity he had found during his awakening experience.

Paraphrasing from his teachings, I would say that according to Adya, there’s nothing we can do to induce or prevent awakening. It’s a purely spontaneous event. One of his teachings I particularly like is the idea that awakening can be gradual, incremental, instead of or in addition to being the classically overwhelming event that we've always been conditioned to expect. It doesn't have to be only one way. If awakening comes with a soft "oh my," instead of a big, mind-blowing "wow," don't overlook the possibility of the "oh my" in favor of waiting for the big "wow." I don't think I've ever heard a spiritual teacher put it this way before. Maybe that's why so many of us are waiting for the big wow, the implication being that we are missing the awakening that's going on right here and now in front of us, because it is so soft and subtle. We've been conditioned to look for it in only one kind of package, and miss it when it comes wrapped differently, because it doesn't look to us as expected.

There are two things I have observed about Adyashanti that I consider unique among teachers:
1. He makes a distinction between being free, and enlightenment/ enlightenment experiences. Many people can merge - by this I take him to mean being able go into Samadhi at will - but are far from being free or liberated. So liberation and enlightenment are not one and the same, according to his teachings.

2. He says to hold onto no fixed ideas, and he really means it. Therefore, if you slouch or begin snoring during meditation instead of sitting up dutifully straight and attentive as we’ve all been taught, he says it absolutely doesn’t matter. Why? Because sitting up straight and meditating as traditionally taught is simply another fixed idea. Besides, he’s known many slouchers who’ve awakened, while many meditators with perfect posture have continued to remain asleep, in spite of their proper technique.

And that, my friends, is what makes him a maverick, to my way of thinking. With this, he has seriously broken away from the pack of all the other spiritual teachers.

During the satsang he spoke at length about suffering, and that our identification with the body and its personality as the basic cause. There were a few stories of suffering offered by members of the audience, including one from the church’s minister, who’s son had died.

It was hard to hear of such sadness among such seemingly nice spiritual people. Spiritual or not, however, we all suffer. It was the original question that set the Buddha out upon his path.

After the talk I went up to Adya to introduce myself. He tried shaking hands with me with a bandaged hand, but I said I didn’t want to risk hurting him further by touching his injured hand. “Adya,” I began, “I know you are fond of quotes. Do you know Shinzen Young?” He said yes. “Well, I wanted to contribute this earlier when we were talking about suffering. It’s sort of an equation. Suffering equals pain plus resistance.” He smiled and said that’s a good one. I patted him lightly on the shoulder as an alternative to the handshake, some need in me to make contact, and thanked him for being there. I couldn't even conceive of not being there with him on this day, and yet I was so full of doubts about my being able to even get in the door just a few hours beforehand.

Once outside I met up with Joe, a friend I met through a meditation group, and we traded impressions about Adya’s satsang while it was fresh in our minds. I could tell by the way his eyes were lit that he had been seriously impressed, as had I. He told me he had seen Adya once before in Santa Monica.

I told Joe that I thought the one quality that stood out during the satsang was Adya’s impeccable manners and incredible politeness and sweetness. I’ve attended satsangs with other teachers who did not exhibit these qualities, but it didn’t occur to me at the time as a lack in them until I became aware of it so fully present in Adya. Only then did the comparison become obvious to me. He was gracious, generous, kind, a good listener, funny, friendly, very sweet, and never once introduced any kind of negativity into the discussions of the audience’s questions or concerns. I believe he brought out the absolute best in us, simply because he was giving us his absolute best. I also believe that behind that polite exterior, intentionally or not (my guess is that he would probably say “spontaneously”) he was quietly flooding the room with love.

On the way out to my car I stopped to say hello to the church’s minister, and thanked her for her staff’s kindness towards me. I also told her that I thought Adya was such a perfect gentleman with impeccable manners. She just beamed at me. I guess we were all just a little bit crazy from the love, or the sun, or the beautiful day it had turned out to be. Or perhaps it didn’t matter why. I just accepted my gift of a perfect afternoon without questioning it and went home.

* – This is an expandable set of pages. If you've been to see any of my listees and would like to offer an "objective" report, ie from one not already "attached" to the teacher in question or full of ideas based on attachment to a "competing" teacher, send it in (Feedback) and i'll be happy to put it up. Other Reports

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