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Contrast between spiritual teachers

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

I have been wondering about the “place” where various spiritual teachers speak from. They all speak of the ultimate reality as “Oneness,” with no attributes, no features. Yet it would seem, from their interactions with the rest of us, that they “live in” spaces that have features different from each other.

The reason this question occurred is that throughout Nisargadatta’s “I Am That,” he tells the questioner that he’s in a different place, a different reality than they are in. He sometimes describes it. I’ll give a couple of examples (out of many):

N: You are all drenched for it is raining hard. In my world it is always fine weather. There is no night or day, no heat or cold. No worries beset me there, nor regrets. My mind is free of thoughts, for there are no desires to slave for.

Questioner: Are there two worlds?

N: Your world is transient, changeful. My world is perfect, changeless. You can tell me what you like about your world—I shall listen carefully, even with interest, yet not for a moment shall I forget that your world is not, that you are dreaming.


N: “My stand I take where nothing is; words do not reach there, nor thoughts. To the mind it is all darkness and silence…Once the world comes into being, all you say may be so…But I take my stand where no difference exists, where things are not, nor the minds that create them. There I am at home.”

Someone said, in our Friends of Rupert Spira group, that these teachers will address people from where the speaker is, and the answers and descriptions they give are adapted to the questioner’s state of mind, or where the questioner is in their spiritual development. That’s very true; I’ve seen Rupert Spira do that, as well as Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi. But for me, that doesn’t explain it: I haven’t once heard Rupert or Frances Lucille say, or imply, that they are in, or experience a different reality than the rest of us. Whereas Nisargadatta explicitly says that.

I’ve found two explanations that satisfy me. One is from Rupert’s book “Being Aware of Being Aware”:

“…it is important to recognize that the inward-facing path explored in this book is only half the journey. Once the essential, irreducible nature of the mind has been recognized, and its inherent peace and unconditional joy accessed, it is necessary to face ‘outwards’ again towards objective experience, realigning the way we think and feel, and subsequently act, perceive and relate, with our new understanding.”

He goes on to say that the Vedantic tradition is inward-facing, and the tantric tradition is best suited for the “reintegration or establishment” in our objective experience. He says that if we don’t go through that reintegration, our life in Awareness “may become a refuge for any lingering sense of a separate self.” (Notice he says “may” not “will become.”)

I would suggest that Nisargadatta never “came back” from the vedantic process of merging, becoming one with the Infinite. And that was a decision on his part; in his case, I don’t think anyone could find that lingering separate self.

As I thought through all this, before I came to that passage in “Being Aware,” I remembered Plato’s Myth of the Cave in The Republic. I have often thought that Plato (or maybe Socrates, or both—I have trouble distinguishing them) was enlightened. Briefly, as I remember this myth, Plato describes humankind as being in chains deep inside of a cave. The images they see are shadows reflected on the walls of the cave. The light source is behind them. What they are viewing is an illusion, the shadows of reality.

At some point, one of them breaks the chains, turns, sees the dim light and follows it, through many turns, to the mouth of the cave. When he reaches the opening, he sits in ecstasy, bathing in the sunlight. But eventually, he feels he must re-enter the cave and free the others.

Consider that, out of 7 billion people, there are probably many who are enlightened (aside from those no longer with us). One in a million? One in 10 million? I have no clue. But I’m sure some stayed outside, away from that opening of the cave, just remained merged. As we know, some have returned to free the rest of us. I would suggest there are some “in-between states,” and Nisargadatta stayed at the edge of the cave, spoke to those who came to him, but did not return, didn’t immerse himself in their reality.

Anyway, that’s how I resolved this issue for myself so that I don’t need to reconsider it. I would agree with those who say, “It doesn’t really matter: What matters is where you are right now, at this moment.” But from where I am, my mind gets caught up in these questions. Does it do any good to resolve them? I don’t know. I’m ok with ending up in the “don’t know mind,” as I often do.

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