Satsang Reports
From our "non-partisan" roving reporters ( * )
This page is from Stuart Resnick

John 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 
fortune.

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 
had used.

Sherman also has started giving free online satsangs. You could do a lot 
worse.

Stuart's site 


* 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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