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A Fresh Start

John Sherman

  nederlands italiano

If you google the phrase "spiritual teachings", you will get over 15 million returns in less than half a second. Of course, those are just the web pages that have spiritual teachings in their keywords or their content. If you google "Buddhism", "Hinduism", "Advaita Vedanta", "Christianity" or "Islam", you will find hundreds of millions of pages about those spiritual teachings.  And that is just what is available on the internet. There must be billions of spiritual teachings in the world, which is really quite remarkable. This business of spiritual teachings is like a jungle. It is a wild, untamed, crazy jungle. And that is really quite surprising since, if you look deeply enough, at the heart of all of them, there are some very simple insights and understandings.

The first insight is that there are not two to be found anywhere. Sometimes that goes by the phrase, "All is one," but really it's that there are not two. There is nothing separate from anything else. That alone is enough. The other insight is that there is nothing wrong with anything or anyone. There is nothing wrong with me, and there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with any thought, idea, expression, or behavior. There is nothing that needs to be fixed. That too is at the heart of all the spiritual teachings.

This insight is expressed with announcements such as "before enlightenment chop wood, after enlightenment chop wood." There are different ways of presenting it.  That is pretty much all there is to it at the core, at the heart of all the spiritual teachings: all is well and all is one.  How does it come to pass that, out of such simple insights and understandings, there should arise such a wildness of profligate, competing presentations, ideas and teachings? How can that be?

For some of them, it is actually very difficult to see the insight at the core, but it is there if you look close enough, deeply enough. And they all seem to be competing with each other, and implying more or less openly that "If you believe this, you are on my side." Or, "If you believe that, you are on the other side." "Come and listen to my spiritual teaching, because my spiritual teaching is more right than somebody else's spiritual teaching."  It even gets to the point where we kill each other over these things. In fact, we are always killing each other over spiritual ideas. We have been doing so for as long as there have been spiritual ideas.

So, the whole business of spiritual teachings is a jungle, it is madness. Of course, by the time we come to the point in our lives where it occurs to us that maybe what we have been doing, which has brought us no satisfaction, should be abandoned in favor of some spiritual search, practice or understanding. Our own minds are just as big a jungle as the jungle of spiritual teachings. So we happen upon some teaching, and we play that to the end. And when it no longer is even able to persuade us that it will give us what we have been looking for, we go to something else.  We try something else. We try to get all the teachings, and understand them all. We try to see that, at the heart of them, there are these two insights, "All is well" and "All is one".

There is another thing that is common to all spiritual understandings. It is something at their core, not in their expression. It is the idea that our fundamental mistake is a misunderstanding as to who or what we are. And if we knew who or what we are, all would be revealed. If we could break the bond that keeps us attached to a false idea of what we are, everything else would be rectified. This is the premise that gives rise to all of the techniques, practices, mantras, sutras, shastras, philosophies and meditations whatsoever: the idea that there is a fundamental misunderstanding that can be rectified.

The only thing that gives rise to all of our striving, struggling, misery, self-hatred, betrayal, aggression and denial is a misunderstanding of what we are. We believe that we are our life. And we believe this fervently. This belief, like all beliefs, is invisible to us.  We know we are transient, flawed human beings, doomed to die. We are individuals subject to all the confusion and the vicissitudes of life. And since we believe that to be the case, all the patently foolish and futile things that we do, based on that belief, in an attempt to gain happiness is actually absolutely reasonable. If I am this transient, flawed, individual, subject to the effects of my own thoughts, subject to the emotional upheavals that are the nature of human existence, then the only thing that I can do is try to fix this individual entity.

But that is not the truth. And if that is not the truth, nothing that I do to try to turn this flawed and transient individual into something that is permanent, realized or enlightened will accomplish that. Because everything I am doing, is being done to something that I am not.

When we enter the spiritual arena, we do so because we are discontented with our lives. We want something different than what we have. We enter the spiritual arena blindly, susceptible to the persuasions of the various teachings. But it is possible to have a fresh start. It is possible to see clearly, "I am a spiritual seeker because I am discontented, and nothing that I have done has worked: no spiritual practice, no spiritual understanding, no material practice, no material understanding, nothing has worked. I have no basis for believing that I will find something in this vast jungle of spiritual understanding that will work, since nothing else has worked so far.

Then, maybe we can put all that aside, the whole history of spiritual practice and understanding, and go back to the beginning. There have been, on numerous occasions in the history of humanity, those who have seen the core of reality, which is that all is one, and all is well, and I am not what I think I am.  And ridding myself of the false idea of what I am is the only possible solution to my misery and searching.  If we really see that, then it is pretty much all over because, if it is true that the problem is misidentification, the only solution is to know the truth of what I am. To know the truth of what I am consciously, not by being told about it or by reading a book about it. To know it by the direct, immediate, conscious experience of the reality of what one is.  We don't have to stop doing all the rest that we do. We have had no success with trying to stop doing what doesn't work in any realm in our lives. We will keep doing it, but can forget about it. We can put all of that aside, and devote ourselves instead to knowing in this moment, directly, consciously what we are.

This is the teaching of Ramana Maharshi. At any moment, in this moment, you can stop for just a second; not stop the thoughts, not stop the ideas, not stop the body experiences or emotional experiences. Simply stop paying attention to them for just one second and move your conscious attention into what it is that is here that makes it impossible for you to deny that you exist. You can do that right now and see that this presence is untouched and untouchable by any of the madness that goes on within it, and it cares not for any of it.

Ramana Maharshi was an exception. He stumbled upon the truth when he was 16 years old, before he had the chance to be conditioned and indoctrinated into one or more of the vast, florid jungle of spiritual ideas. Ramana Maharshi gives us the opportunity of a fresh start.

Here is the essence of self-inquiry. There is nothing whatsoever about you that needs fixing.  Self-inquiry is not offered as a new practice to be chosen instead of some old practice. It is not offered as an opportunity to become sinless and pure, to quell negative thoughts and emotions, to silence the mind, to stop thought or anything whatsoever along those lines. It is offered only to demonstrate to you the ease with which it is possible to consciously, without mediation, see what you are, here, in this moment. Thoughts may stop, they may not. Who cares?

Don't change anything or keep anything from changing. Don't try to do away with your negative nature or try to enhance your good nature. Don't try to get rid of thought. Don't try to have good thoughts, instead of bad thoughts. Don't try to get rid of misery. Don't try to get rid of aggression. Don't try to get rid of betrayal. Don't try to get rid of the experience of worthlessness that may be at the very heart of your misery. Don't try to do anything about any of that. Don't change your practices, whether they are spiritual practices or worldly practices. Do nothing about them. Let them be as they are. And, at every opportunity that it occurs to you, every time the thought appears within your mind that it is possible to do, stop for just a second and let your consciousness fall into this presence, this hereness that you know is you. And see it to be untouched and untouchable, just for a second. And go on about your practices until the next time it occurs to you to do so.

All I have ever wanted in this entire life is to know what I am. With the repeated movement of consciousness into the reality of what I am, over time, this knowing saturates the mind. And what needs to be abandoned goes, without any effort to abandon it. What needs to be held stays without any need to do anything whatsoever to hold it. And the consciousness of this vast, silent, present reality that you are, which you always have known, which has never been absent, softly seeps into your day-to-day life. You may not even notice it. It just seeps, saturates, penetrates your everyday life so that, maybe a month or two months or a year from now, you may say, "I haven't felt frantic about anything for quite awhile."

Peace is here. Freedom is here. It is your nature. It has nothing to do with anything you are doing, good or bad. It is your nature and that nature is ever available to you.

In my experience, this is the self inquiry of Ramana Maharshi, or at least the first step. It can also be the last step. Nothing more needs to be done than to see what you are repeatedly. That is the truth. Nothing more needs to be done. Nothing more needs to be gotten rid of. Nothing more needs to be acquired.  Then, the jungle of spiritual teachings is not a problem; it is just a jungle. The jungle of emotional upheaval is not a problem; it is just a jungle.

Thank you for calling on me. I've wanted to talk to you all evening, ever since I walked in the door. I tried not to plan what I was going to say. I want to be present with all of you. I love you… There, I said it.

The feeling is mutual.

Thank you very much. I really can't say it any better than that. But I do want to express my gratitude also.

Oh, you are very welcome. Your gratitude for what?

For what you have brought to me personally. Not just you, but those who stand behind you, those that come in through your presence and, in particular, Ramana. My next request from you would be that you assist me to open my heart to the love that is available through everything and everybody.

Let me ask you this. I will try to assist you. What do you think that love is? Do you perceive that love is some emotional feeling, some feeling state?

I have had a burning in my heart all evening. My mind tells me that that may or not be it. I also have a sense that I see it through your eyes...  If I look into your eyes, I have the sense that there is this great vastness of space, which I interpret as love.

I see the same infinite space when I look into your eyes, I see no difference whatsoever. But this business of love becomes very tricky when we bring it into the mind. We all want love, don't we? Keep enlightenment, give me love! The business of love is just like the business of spiritual understanding. We want it, but we don't know what it is, and we have a lot of ideas about it. And those ideas have been given to us by our parents, our friends, our lovers, our movies, music, books, etc. Just like the spiritual teachings, right?

We know that love is the heart of it all, and that is true. Love is the heart of it all. But our seeking after it has been a seeking within a mad jungle of ideas about what it is. For most of us, it is a personal thing. I want you to love me, instead of him. Love me only. Or I want to love you. I want to feel loved. I want to feel comfortable, welcome and at ease. I want romantic love. I want to fall in love, and be wild and lost in the temporary insanity that is romantic love. I want it to last forever. I don't want it to go away.

I bet you if you googled the word "love" you would get way more than 15 million hits. So, we come to the altar of love with the same madness and confusion with which we come to the altar of spiritual seeking. We don't know what it is, but we know we like it and we want it.

Let's consider this for a moment. If the love that I receive is to be worthwhile, it has to be unconditional. In other words: if you love me, it must be because of some particular characteristic of mine. So, if I lose that for any reason, I lose your love. If you love me because I am like I am, if I become something else, I lose your love.

We try to turn romantic love into unconditional love by binding it up with chains and vows, with promises and laws, and that is okay, really. But if love is to be worth anything at all, it has to be love without condition, which means that you love me even if I am a fool, even if I am an evil doer, even if I am wrong, even if I am ugly. That love is not conditional, it is conditioned on anything.

If we start looking at unconditional love, we have to see that the very essence, the very definition of love without condition is that it doesn't care. Unconditional love has no emotional component. It really cares not and it is permanent; it never changes, and it is unaffected by the vicissitudes of life. It has never absent, never missing. That, of course, is you. There is only one phenomenon anywhere to be found that is permanent, that never changes, that is never absent and never moves: you.

So, the whole idea of wanting love and looking for love is a denial of love. All of the great teachers have made the announcement that love is all there is. Some have made the announcement that there is nothing but you. They are saying the same thing. The reality of you rejects nothing; it resists nothing, it cares not what the shape of anything is. That is the love.  All the craziness that comes and goes within your minds, all of the crazy thoughts and desires and aversions that are endlessly moving, all of that comes and goes, plays, suffers within you. Without you, none of it would be. You are the ocean of love in which all things whatsoever are welcome and have their being. So, if you want love, look to yourself. See if there is anything absent there.

If it is love, there isn't anything absent.

Is it not the case that the only love worth having is love without condition, and that means permanent, unchanging, untouched, unmoved, unaffected? Isn't that the case? Is that not this permanent presence that you are—permanent, unchanging, unaffected, unmoving, welcoming all, seeing all, despising nothing, not even despising itself?
Mostly, in our lives, we think of love as a means to an end. I love you because of what I get from loving you. If I take love to be a means to an end, then surely it makes sense for me to, at some point, rather than continuing to chase love, to wonder, What is it that I will get from this love? What if I get it? What do I want? What do I get if I get love? What do I get if you love me? What do I get? What is added to me? What is taken away from me if I get this love that is a means to an end, and it is taken away? What is gone? What is missing?

Nothing. You are the love that you seek, just as you are the God that you seek; just as you are the permanence, the peace and the freedom that you seek. These are all alternate names for you. But none of this does any good if it is taken to be something new that you have to believe in order to be happy. If I am somehow able to summon enough eloquence to persuade you that you are the love that you seek, what good will that do you? Then, you will just have something new to test, so you can determine whether it is true or not true.  What if Jesus Christ came down from the clouds and said, "You are love?" (And well, he did, didn't he?) What good would that do? It would just be something new for me to believe that I am, which I think is better than what I used to believe I was.

But the fresh start is to see that nothing will do, except to directly see this for yourself. What am I, really? What is love, really? What am I? Is love absent? Nothing needs to be sacrificed. Nothing needs to be changed. Nothing needs to be attained. Nothing needs to be done about any of your practices. Just, whenever it occurs to you, stop for just one second, and let your conscious attention fall back into this permanence that you are, and everything else will be taken care of.

Thank you very much for this experience which I feel on the edge of. Not that I fully grasp it…

You are on the edge of it, except those times when you are face to face with yourself, even if those are fleeting moments. The rest of the time, you are on the edge of it, and that is okay. It will take you.

That is very well said; it is eloquently said. And you come closest to home when I am on the edge of fear… In those times,  I have the impression that I had from listening to you: that love is very strong, and I don't have to be threatened by my thoughts of being unworthy, that  I will succumb to fear or repeat my past mistakes.

Yes, that's right. And even if you do succumb to fear, even if you repeat past mistakes, you are unchanged, untouched by any of it. You can see that.

I can see that, yes. And I can see that in your eyes.  I can say also that my heart has quieted down a bit. But I can feel it here in my chest, too. It is a whole body experience.

It is a whole cosmos experience.

Yes, it is. Thank you very much.

Thank you. I am really happy being with you.

I am, too.


What you were saying really spoke to me, because I have been struggling with this misidentification. It actually brought to mind something from a training I was doing last year. At one point, I was going through the motions and my teacher, who was very astute, said, "You are not here. If you are not here, I want to know who is here, because I want to know who my student is." And I recognize, in my everyday life, that what is running me is this little me that I think is me. But it is a very limited me. It is not the true me. It is a misidentification that I am identified with, and attached to, totally.

What you said is interesting: "What is running me is this little me." What is running you is a cause-and-effect mechanism which, in some traditions, is called karma. There is a feeling that appears within you that the doer of things, the thinker of thoughts, and the one who is responsible for actions is you. There is an idea that appears within you that this whole madness of life is you, and even that "this little me" is running things.  This is what misidentification is. Misidentification is this idea that I am limited, separate, transient. This idea is very deep. You cannot be argued out of it. You cannot be persuaded out of it. The only solution is to see what you really are. The only solution to a false belief is the truth.

So, nothing that goes on within the craziness of your life is of any consequence in this final realization of reality. All that is of any consequence is the willingness to see, here and now, in this moment, what I am. And this is really important. Maybe I don't say this enough. It is to see what I am, really. It is not to see that what I am is permanent, eternal, freedom, consciousness, bliss. That is just trying to adopt a new belief about what I am.  It is to see: I am here. What is that?

That is absolutely available to you. How could it not be? You are always here. Even the idea of me as a limited, transient, separate entity that is subject to the vicissitudes of life doesn't have to be eradicated. It is just a thought, an idea. All that needs to be expunged is the deep, unseen, unacknowledged belief that I am that idea. It is not the idea itself that is the problem. The problem is the belief that it is me. So, if you see that underneath all of the spiritual jungle, then you see that I can't do anything to correct this idea of myself as a limited, transient, entity subject to life's vicissitudes. I can't make that idea become bigger, or clearer, or better, or stronger, or more inclusive. That idea is irrelevant. All that I can do is see what I am, and let the rest of it take care of itself. Do you follow me?

Yeah, I do. You said everything, and there is this part of me, which is probably the mind part saying, "But…"  I think maybe I just need a little clarification. Maybe I just need you to say it again, because I have been on a certain spiritual awareness path since I was very young. I would read Krishnamurti and think, "Oh, I have to be aware," Okay, so, I would be watching myself at all time. But my sense is that even that part that was watching me was a false personality.

Well, of course. What else could it be? But the thing that I really want to get across is that even that "but" is okay. In other words, what we are after here is not the elimination of the "but what about awareness, and what about me, watching myself and being mindful?" What we are after is not to eliminate that, and not to cure that, as if it were the sickness. It is just a symptom. The "but" is irrelevant. Even as you are doing all the rest of the stuff that you are doing, from time to time, stop for just a second and drink from this well that is the permanent reality of what you are. Even if you don't think it is the permanent reality of what you are, if you will drink from this well, everything else will be taken care of.

I am just not feeling able to access it. I feel that in my efforts I have stumbled into other ideas …

Are you here?


You know you are here?


There is no doubt or uncertainty about that?

Most of me is here, anyway.

Oh, so you are not here? Can I persuade you that you don't exist? Should I try?

Well no, I am here. I'm just not integrated, necessarily. There are different parts of me that might not be here.

But that's okay, too. I don't need for you to be integrated. Are you here?

At that moment I was. I had the option of being here.

At any moment, if you will stop and look, you will find that you are here. You don't create being here. You are here. You just don't look at it very often, because you are accustomed to looking at the thoughts, the buts, the circumstances, the awareness, the mindfulness and all of that. That is what you are accustomed to. That is what we are all accustomed to. The idea that we have to do away with that is stupid. That's just what we do: we look at thoughts, we look at feelings, we look at experience, we look at sensation, we look at relationship, we look at understanding, and we look at the doubts... There is only this one thing about which we have no doubt. If ever we look, we never have a doubt that "I am here." Is that not so?

It is a new understanding that I am allowing to sink in. I think it is quite revelatory.

It is revelatory. It doesn't need understanding, but understanding will come. The first step is not understanding. The first step is doing. You are sitting with me here, and I ask you, "Are you here?" You stop and say, "Yeah, I am." Any time it occurs to you, do that. Just look and see: where am I? What am I? Am I here? How do I know that? Really, how do I know that? I don't know that you are here. I could even deny that you are here. I could deny that these flowers are here. After all, you, and this building, and this room, and this world, and this universe, are all secondary experiences that appear within my mind that I have learned to call by the name of you, and these flowers, and this room, and so forth.

So, you can't be certain that I am here. For all you know, you could be in an insane asylum somewhere, tied down to a bed, dreaming this meeting, these people, and this conversation. But you know that you are here. Even if all of this is false, you are real. You could never deny that.  That certainty is what I ask you to check with, whenever it occurs to you. And what I tell you is that merely by doing that, understanding will come on its own. What needs to be seen, will be seen. What needs to go, will leave; what needs to stay, will stay. Just whenever it occurs to you, whenever it is possible, stop for one second and look to find what it is that makes you know that you are. And don't worry about all the rest of it. Don't worry about all the other practices, all the understandings, all the other falseness, trueness, any of that. That will all be taken care of, if you will just look whenever you can and see what you are.

Thank you.

You are very welcome. And that is the heart of all the teachings. That is at the heart of all of them. And from that, comes this wild, crazy jungle of spiritual teachings and understandings, and seeking, and practice.


I was listening to a podcast of one of your talks while at work.  I used to listen to music, and then I thought I would listen to podcasts instead.  I was listening to one of them, and you were saying, "You know, you don't have to do anything. You are already here. You don't have to read any books." And I was thinking, "What do you mean?"  I've read all these books, and I've learned all these types of sadhana and yoga, and all these different teachers, with different teachings, and at that moment I thought, "Well that's a slacker's approach, that can't be..." How could that be valid, since it is not proactive?  That was my first reaction. I kept listening and downloaded more of the podcasts. I guess I have a hard time with the idea that I don't have to do anything, as if none of my actions would change my reality.

How much luck have you had in this life with taking action to change your reality?

Well, my actions change my perception of reality, I guess.

And what is it to act? What do you mean by "action?"

Doing sadhana, meditating every day. I haven't done it for a long time, but when I was doing it, it made me feel like everything was fine…

Why did you stop doing it?

Because I got tired of it; I found myself wanting more chaos.

Yes, right. I really can relate to that. That is my point, of course. So, your answer to my question, "How much luck have you had with your actions changing your reality?" would have to be, "Not much. "

Right. But I want to feel that I am in control of my own destiny...

Of course, you do. Everybody does.

I feel like I am missing out on some other reality. I hear about these experience, and about these things that certain people can see…

You absolutely can get those experiences. You absolutely can find the right sadhana, the right practice that will bring you those experiences. Those experiences will be different, some of them are immense, blissful and heartbreaking, and some of them will be horrible and ugly.  But you can find the right sadhana, the right practice, the right path that will bring you those experiences.

The one thing those experiences all have in common is that one moment they were not here, one moment they are here, and then the next moment they are gone. That is the nature of all experience, and it doesn't matter how huge the experience is. It doesn't matter how magical, or mystical, or overwhelming it is, if it is not here now, and it comes in the next moment, the one thing that you can be absolutely certain of is that it will be gone the moment after that.

So, you can get those things in the spiritual realm, and you can get those things in the world. To use an expression from Trumgpa Rimpoche, there is no difference between the spiritual materialism that seeks after God-like experiences of consciousness, of opening up and so forth, and the material materialism which seeks after relationship, love, sex, power, fame, money, wealth and so forth. There is no difference in their outcome, either. If you devote yourself to seeking after spiritual experiences, you will attain them, and then they will go, leaving you bereft. The same happens with the things of the world. If you are adept enough, and able enough to do so, you can attain love, sex, fame, power, and wealth for yourself. And, just as with the spiritual experiences, they will come and they will go, leaving you bereft. And they will not give you what you want.

I am not preaching against these sadhanas. I don't preach against anything. I have no interest in having people abandon any practice whatsoever. The only thing I have to say is that already here, in this moment, right now, as we speak, permanence is here. You are here. You are not your thoughts. They come and go. You are not your desires. They come and go, shift and change. You are not the yearning for something more. That too comes and goes. It is satisfied for a moment, and then it is no longer satisfied. What doesn't change, what is never absent, what is always here is you.  And if you will, without abandoning any of these other practices, without even abandoning the yearning for these spiritual experiences that you have read about, once in a while, when it occurs to you, bring your attention to this that makes you certain that you exist. And all the rest will be taken care of.

The truth is of course, that it really doesn't matter if you do this. It doesn't matter if you continue suffering and chasing after false gods. It doesn't change the reality of what you are. Nothing changes that, and you can verify it for yourself. You are here. Are you any different than you were 50 years ago? So, it is true that it really doesn't matter. You can go through your life seeking after false gods, wanting what you can't get, bemoaning what you lose, and so forth, and that's okay. It doesn't change you. You are reality itself.  
But, within this life, if you want to be finished with all of that, there is only one thing to do, and it doesn't have anything to do with doing away with seeking after things. It doesn't have anything to do with doing away with bad thoughts. It doesn't have anything to do with eliminating the yearning. It doesn't have anything to do with any of that. It just has to do with doing this one action: look and see what you are, whenever it occurs to you, whenever it is possible. This is the action that brings an end to it all. This is what you can do.

Thank you.

Is that helpful?

 I want something that will bring an end to it all...

Of course, you do.

It doesn't matter what I do, none of it really makes me that much happier. No matter where I live, no matter what I do, what career I pursue, it is always the same thing.

That is the answer to my first question, right? What kind of luck have you had with this?

No luck.

This is the action you are looking for. You may or may not be able to receive this, but this is the action you are looking for. You say, with certainty, that you want something that will put an end to it all. Now, who is this "I"?

I don't know.

We say: I know that what I want is this, and I know that what I want is that, I know that where I want to get to is this... But first see, what is this "I" that is doing all this wanting? First see that, and then go ahead and get what you want, or not get what you want. But since all of these desires, these disappointments, and these actions begin and end with "I", why not first find out what "I" is? How hard can that be?  It is a lot closer than the other things that you have done. The other things are out there, or in the future, or at the end of a long path. But "I" is here forever.

Thank you.

Do you follow me?


Let me know.



I have so many questions.

Actually, you haven't had a question in a long time.
I have nothing but questions. I don't feel like this small self who has arisen from "I" has much to say about what happens.

I don't disagree with that. In fact, I would go further and say, it has nothing to say about anything.

I don't understand how these things arise in this largeness, the vastness, the love that we are.  Are we controlling them? Are we just seeing what they do?

Have you tried to control any of it? If I try to control something, it is because something is at stake in it for me.

Well, I vote…

Good, I'm in favor of voting. I am happy that you vote. But, do you see how that is? You began by pointing out to me that this small self, this transient entity has nothing to say about what is going on. And then, at the end of it, you claimed to be voting.

I'm trying to have an effect on things.

But you really don't have anything to say about that, either. Do you?

Obviously, not.

You want to have something to say about it, but you don't, and the reason you don't is because you are not the voter. And you know that. You are this permanence that you have seen, which is unconditional in its willingness to allow all things to be, to come and go, to vote or not vote, to hate or to love. That is you, and you know it.

It's an allowing whatever happens. It's not controlling what happens.

The actuality of you has no interest in allowing or disallowing anything. You are the ocean in which all of these things play. At night, in the dream state, who is making that dream character do what it does? It can't be you. It can't be the dream character.

They say it's just part of the mind. Maya, illusion.

Just like the voter. But there is no need to come up with a comprehensive theory of what this play is. There are plenty of comprehensive theories about the dream of life, but they are irrelevant. What is relevant is this that you are this permanence, and you know that. Who cares whether the dream character votes or doesn't vote, loves or hates, is confused or clear?

It's just the play.

Yes, that's right.  We have been together in satsang for about six years now. And you have seen how this entity has relaxed, quite beyond your control. That's the consequence of shelf-inquiry, which is an action that cuts consequence itself.

 I found that there is really nothing to do but surrender. Yet, there is a certain responsibility to play my part in the world.

Yes, of course there is. There is no problem with that. There are some spiritual ideas about withdrawing from the world, but that is crazy. How could you withdraw from the world? The world is in you. You are not in the world. The world appears, comes and goes, dances and plays within you. When somebody asked Ramana, "Master, how do I live my life now?" he replied, "Live your life like an actor on the stage." Yes, play your role. Why not? What's the harm? Vote. What's the harm?

I just don't know anything about all the rest of me. It bewilders me. I want to know.

Nobody does. Nobody knows anything. What is the matter with wanting to know? What is the matter with seeking out knowledge? The only thing that is the matter is when I take action that I believe will bring me final satisfaction, in a venue that is incapable of doing so. If you take action to try to gather knowledge that you know is not going to give you anything other than knowledge, what is the problem with that? If I sit down, and play a game of chess with my wife, and try to beat her pants off, what is the problem with that? I get nothing from it. I lose nothing. What am I really? Am I this voter, this player of chess, this seeker after knowledge? This one comes and goes. He has changed, he is always changing. One minute he wants revolution, the next minute he wants peace.

There must be a reason, because the timeless consciousness is not there for nothing. We are not here for nothing.

It is here to see. It is here to be, to see the truth. Ramana said, "The purpose of your life is to know what you are." The purpose of being is to know the truth. Nothing matters but the truth.

But we can only know so much.

You know it all, right here, in this moment. Are you here? You know that you are.

That's all I know.

That's all there is. That's it. That's the truth. That's the only thing that you know for certain. All the rest is play. It doesn't make it bad, it just makes it play. But the truth is you. And that is what you are here for, just that. All the rest of it is play.

I keep experiencing the glimpses.

That is play, too.

And it's beautiful.

You are beautiful. Look and see. What are you?

I can't understand how work can arise. Why?

It is okay that you don't understand that. It is okay that you want to understand it, but it's not the truth. It has nothing to do with the truth. You are the truth. The rest of it is play and, as everyone who has been a child know well, play can seem really serious. When the certainty of the reality of what you are is present in your consciousness, serious or not serious, it is play too.  All is well. There is nothing you can do, right or wrong, except to see yourself, directly, consciously. And that's easy: you are here.

When I get worried, I just remind myself: Wait a minute, there is no death. Why are we so upset?

When you get worried and afraid, look and see what you are. That's all you have to do. Just look and see what you are. There need be no conclusions that come from that. It is the seeing itself that is the medicine. Many thoughts will arise about that, but they are secondary. It is the seeing itself that is the medicine.

That's good to remember.


Have we talked before?

No, we haven't. This is my first time. A lot of what I heard you say intrigued me, like this idea of permanence. Or your question, "Are you here?" Tonight, or while listening to you sometimes, I feel like I am here, but other times, I feel like I am not here, I am elsewhere. That raises a lot of questions in me.  When  you challenge me to know myself as I really am,  I feel that there is help here to see myself. But when I'm in my habitual world, my experience is not the same... I confront a lot of resistance to even look into the question, "Who am I?" at any particular moment. Most of the time, I don't know what I am doing, I am acting habitually or unconsciously.  I need help, but I'm not sure what the right question is. Am I one, or am I many? My perception now is that I am many. I am not one.

When I ask you to see what you are, I am not asking you to come up with a new story about what you are. This person story is plenty of stories already. I am asking you to see directly, prior to any thoughts about it, the actuality of what it is to be. I know, from my own experience, that most of our lives (as you quite clearly point out), are spent in unconscious distraction, in the world of getting and not getting, keeping, being safe, understanding and all of that. This just like taking antibiotics; it is not some final solution, "If I just do it right, it will be all over with."  The medicine is, to just for a second, whenever it occurs to you, look at yourself. You are here, right? You know that.

Now? I am here.

That's right, you are here. Whatever it is that makes that undeniable, in this moment, whenever it occurs to you, go there. Not as a big deal, not as the final solution, but just as medicine. I have no expectation, or any hope, or any desire to see the craziness of this person disappear. The fact that when you leave here, you will be off in some trip, in some craziness, I have no interest in doing away with that. That is beside the point. Now that we have had this meeting, the thought will occur to you, in your life, "Wait a minute, am I here? How do I know that? What is present here that makes me know that I am?" It may happen once in a day. It may happen twice in a day. It may happen once in a week.  And you will taste that. That's the medicine. And it will work its way, over time, with the craziness of this person. There is nothing you can do about this person's inclination to get lost in distraction. That's a waste of time and energy. The only thing that you can do is the direct, conscious, unmediated meeting with the experience of being that is always available to you. And the fact that it is always available to you means that it doesn't matter if it takes a week until it occurs to you to do so again.

To be in the moment?

You are here always. It doesn't matter how often it occurs to you to look and see that, because when it does occur to you, you are here. That doesn't go away. It's always accessible. And that is the medicine. If you take that assigning no more significance to it than you would to taking antibiotics, all the rest of it will be taken care of. That's the simplicity of Ramana's offering.

I understand intellectually what you're saying...

That's enough. Really. Just do it.  Let me know how you are doing, okay?

Yes. I'll stop here.

For seven years now, I have been trying to find a way to offer this simply enough, stripped of all the madness that surrounds spiritual understanding. I have been trying in these meetings with you, whatever form you appear to me in, and I haven't got it yet. But it is these meetings with you that make it even possible for me to express this more clearly, and to be of greater use to you. I can't tell you how grateful I am, and how wonderful it is to have this opportunity to meet with you like this.

There is nothing you need to do. There is nothing you need to get rid of. There is nothing you need to keep. All that is needed is to see what you are. Not once and for all, as the final solution, but whenever it occurs to you to do so. You will always be here. There will never be a time when you will think, "Oh, wait a minute, what am I really?" and find nothing there. Always, you are here. Always, you are available to yourself. And I tell you, from my heart, if you will just do this whenever you can, whenever it occurs to you, without wasting a nanosecond on regret for the times that you have not done it, all will be well. The times that you are lost in the dream are irrelevant. The only time that is relevant is the nanosecond in which you meet yourself directly, nakedly and see what you are.

Thank you very much. May all being know itself.

John Sherman
May 6, 2006