Sherman, May 5, 2007
I went to John Sherman's satsang on Sunday. See
http://www.riverganga.org/ . Sherman initially got turned on by Gangaji
and Buddhism while doing 18 years in Fed prison for politically-
motivated bank robbery, but now he just talks about Ramana Maharishi
and self-inquiry. I'm not in the habit of going out of my way to see
teachers, but this was walking distance from home, and Sherman never
charges for Satsang (donations only), so what the hell.
About 2 dozen people in a nice small room in a church. We sat quietly
for 5 or 10 minutes after Sherman walked in. I got very nice feelings
during this time. Who knows, but I suppose they came from being
together with a bunch of diverse strangers in a special atmosphere,
knowing we were all there with the specific intention of exploring the
great questions of life.
His teaching is something like this. The only problem in the world is that
we mistake our life-story for "me." Everything about our experience can
be doubted. We can doubt whether anyone else is really there, or just
some dream illusion. We can even doubt the existence of our own
bodies. But the sense that "I am here" is one thing we can't doubt. So as
much as you can, whenever you can, return to looking into that sense of
I-ness/here-ness. Doing so is like taking medicine: you don't know
exactly how or why it works, but it leads to seeing who we really are,
which removes that one problem of mistakingly identifying with the life-
story, and we come to see that we've got no stake in that story.
Sherman was clear that he considers spirituality and special experiences
to be besides the point. In prison, he himself spent a year in constant
bliss, but that was something that appeared, so it had to disappear,
leaving him with nothing. Talking much about his particular drama was
irrelevent. He kept saying things like you don't need to engage in self-
improvement, because that's irrelevent to self-inquiry, although you
don't have to stop trying to improve yourself. It's all just irrelevent, you
don't have to change or not change anything, just do that I-ness thing.
I'm used to keeping "What am I?" in daily life, but also in structured
practice like formal sitting and mantra etc. Maybe Sherman's method is
lacking something since it doesn't include a more formal practice to
connect the inquiry to what you *do* moment to moment. Perhaps
that's why my Zen friend who joined me there thought the satsang
was "cotton candy." But even he felt that Sherman's style might help
some people, and wouldn't do any harm.
The main thing that impressed me was that Sherman put on no airs of
being someone higher or special. I believe his simplicity and straight-
forwardness would jump out at anyone more used to Gangaji or
Adyashanti types, not to mention Space Daddy/Mommy Spritual Gurus.
Everything about Sherman gave me the impression of someone who
was totally sincere in using his experience and understanding of Ramana
to help people, and feeling a responsibility for doing no harm.
As in the normal satsang style, after Sherman spoke about the teaching
for a bit, he opened it up for people to ask him questions, or actually to
talk about anything, for over an hour. He seemed genuine interested in
hearing from people whether the things he said were doing any good, I
think so he could use the feedback to refine his style to be most helpful.
He said he'd read any emails that people sent to him, though he
wouldn't always have time to reply. In addition to his lack of "I'm a big
spiritual person" attitude, the fact that he doesn't charge anything other
than donations, and there wasn't a big push to buy books or sign up for
a retreat or anything, made me think that he's not in this for fame or
I asked him the last question of the program. I said that for me, self-
inquiry is like a scientific experiment, in that it doesn't matter what I
expect to happen or want to happen or what anyone else says will or
should happen. It's just about seeing what I actual experience. Sherman
seemed in harmony that he also takes this scientific approach.
So then I said that in his talking, he had mentioned a few times that
inquiry leads to some permanent awareness of who you are. But how
can that be, since "permanence" is an idea, it can't possibly be an
experience. And he replied that he'd been reluctant to talk
about "permanent," that perhaps what he really meant was that we
need to notice what's impermanent and avoid mistaking any of it for "I."
I was impressed that in this response, he seemed to be sincerely trying
to get at something true or helpful, rather than defending the words he
Sherman also has started giving free online satsangs. You could do a lot
* – 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