by Phil Teertha Mistlberger
Philip: What we’re in consideration of here is what is sometimes called the "Third Eye", or the one Eye. There is a rather obscure saying in the Bible where Christ says, “If thine eye be single then thy whole body be filled with light”. It’s very interesting that in the East the "single eye" is commonly referred to as the Third Eye. And really what the single or Third Eye symbolizes is the single "I" -- the one "I", the Greater "I" of our ultimate identity. The one “Eye” is not just a representation of a physical or psychic or spiritual eye or a vision or a scene of light, but also of the one “I” -- the “I am”. So what we're truly doing in satsang and in the whole non-dual approach to enlightenment involves a constant reminder of, not just that as Ramana said, "the great I-dentity is who you really are", but also that when we look into the eyes of another person, the “I” that is looking back at us through their two physical eyes is ulimately the exact same “I” that is looking through our eyes at that person. This intensifies in a moment of conscious relating, which is actually the essence of true Tantra. All the layers of so-called spiritual initiations or spiritual realizations working on the subtle levels of mind end up in the final realization that the “I” that is looking at you through the two eyes of the other, is the exact same “I” that is looking through your eyes at them. From the other to you and back to them. This is not just poetry, this is not just metaphor; this is literal, actual truth.
There is another phrase in the Bible that actually touches on that. It is “in the twinkling of an eye, it can happen.” Papaji (the great Indian Advaitin master) used to say that this can happen “in a quarter of a second.” Just devote a quarter of a second to the realization of who you actually are, what the self actually is, and in that moment there can be a realization that there is only one “I”, literally. That quarter of a second realization can happen with your partner, for example, or in any sort of relating with anyone in the moment; but this can be a particulary useful thing to remember to practice with your primary partner. Consider for just one second, one moment in time, really truly devote all your awareness to that, all your intention to realizing that the “I” that is looking through your eyes is ultimately the same “I” that is looking back at you through their eyes. This is the One “I”, the source of consciousness behind the thick layers of egoic personality and character. It's the same thing as the Third Eye, the One Eye of spiritual vision that sees directly into the non-dual nature of God and Ultimate Reality.
We first consider this on an intellectual level; and then we enter into the existential, the actual experience. We leap into the actual experience. It’s a jump from mind and time into the eternity of now where the One “I” exists, where the One “I” is the fundamental reality, the unqualified reality, the only reality.
Of course, the unspeakable miracle is that this One “I” has as its capacity the ability to express through endless forms of the bodymind; endless apparent personalities in space and time. I say “apparent” because the personality actually exists at the level of the dream that is generated by the mind when it is ignorant of Reality. As in any dream, the dream when you’re dreaming it is real; as you move out of it there is the realization that it's only a dream. So in tracing back who it is that we think we are in our dreaming state — the self image, or personality — it’s seen that it’s in the self image where all suffering occurs. The self image always defines itself (the ego) as something limited. “I’m not good enough.. there’s someone better than me… I’m not worthy of love.. I’m not worthy of enlightenment.. I’m not worthy of knowing God.. I’m better than you…I’m less than you…I have something you don’t have…you have something I don’t have…” and so on. The self image always functions and exists within comparison, and therein suffering lies. This is what the personality is.
Once we have played enough in the realm of personality, there gradually dawns this slow realization that we are becoming tired with it, even if at first we don’t understand this inner fatigue, and may even mistake it for depression. But at this point you’re literally losing your interest in false personality; losing your fascination with the games of personality, losing interest with defining yourself as a separate entity. And losing interest with endlessly validating that...with confirming the self image, with "proving" something about yourself. In relationship invariably there is this undercurrent of effort, this attempt to prove that we’re lovable to those whom we do the dance of relationship with; whether they’re primary partner, friends, family, etc. And it is within the limited self image that the conditions of suffering are generated. So the waking up process is nothing other than, as Ramana said, going back the way you came, returning back to that which is creating the self image in the first place. The original core thought or the original separation from the source, from the One “I”.
So if thine “eye-I” be single, thy whole body be filled with light: what that refers to is that if there is a one-pointed focus on the source from which the self image is generated and has found its birth, this in turn leads to freedom and light. Just on the other side of the core wound of the ego is the awareness of that which is observing the whole thing, which is the One “I”. At that point the whole body becomes full of light; what that means is that the body is understood to be nothing but a field of energy that is in itself consciousness. So the awakening doesn’t occur just in the head; it is actually throughout the whole body. At which point the individual self image, the ego-wave in the ocean of infinite Being realizes its inherent existence as the entire ocean, or as pure consciousness. And this is a wave that is infinitely still at the same time. This is awakening.
But in that realization, in that twinkling of an eye, even if it’s just a glimpse, there is a realization of fundamental sanity and safety and okayness, because all the insanity of the personality is a function of separation and isolation, loneliness at a very deep level. Not just a casual loneliness but a deep profound loneliness of being cut off from the source, adrift in the universe; an iceberg adrift in the ocean. It’s a mortally terrifying state of existence and it gives rise to all suffering. Trying to improve the iceberg, trying to work on the iceberg, trying to melt it a bit or maybe freeze it a little harder, change its texture, turning it into a popsicle, putting some flavor on it… all the things that we might do with the iceberg are ultimately fruitless. It’s like any effort on fixing the mind, changing the personality, polishing the personality, scrubbing it up, improving it, is essentially fruitless. It’s like dusting; dust always accumulates again...it goes up and falls down again.
So, we’re not involved actually in improving the personality, we’re not involved in changing the mind; this is a pointless task. What we’re involved in is seeing into the illusory nature of the iceberg and realizing that the iceberg is nothing but a modification of the entire ocean. The ego is a collection of thoughts; thoughts are nothing but a modification of consciousness. So we are deconstructing; going back to the source. We are seeing what is on the other side of the iceberg, seeing what is on the other side of the original thought: I am a somebody, I am a separate person. Just on the other side of that is the pure awareness that is the one I, the One Identity as Ramana called it; the one universal Self. A realization like this happens in the moment, in the twinkling of an eye when you actually “get it” profoundly, that the “I” that is looking into you is the same “I” that is looking back at you through the eyes of another person. To the ego this is absolutely abhorrent because there may be some people that you want to be joined with, intimate with, but not everyone. This is because the ego is always in comparison, it is always ranking, assessing. Who makes your list of favorite personalities and who’s on the black list. And where you rank yourself; what sort of a personality you think you have; your own self image. Who you think you really are is never who you really are. Because who you really are cannot be thought of; it can only be directly known.
Questioner: What is the Source? I find I have a hard time attuning to it.
Philip: The Source is nothing other than the present moment. It is not always easy to sense the internal Source, because it’s awfully intangible, and we’re used to focusing on things outside of us all of the time. Reality is a very physical, material thing, especially for Westerners. So to say, “find your true self inside”….most people when they close their eyes, they just see a big blankness. There is not a lot of sensitivity there, for most people. What you can do is simply externalize that a little bit and you’ll see that the external correlate of your true Self or the Source is just this present moment. It’s a wonderful benchmark because the one thing you know for sure about this moment is that it exists. Here it is. The only thing that happens is that in our identification with thinking and when we identify with the personality and when we get lost and entangled in the mind, is that it puts a film over reality, a film of dust and it makes it into something very mundane, very ordinary. So it becomes, “well, what are you talking about, what’s so special about this moment? It’s just this moment; what’s the big deal? What’s all the fuss about? Leave me alone, let me read a book about enlightenment.” But the actual truth is that this moment is absolutely sacred and is absolutely miraculous. This moment is stunningly, unbelievably, impossibly miraculous.
Sometimes we are aware of that when we take drugs; if you have ever taken mind altering drugs, psychotropics or what have you. Normally any kind of a peak experience in life is thought to be created by something outside of us. It’s the drug; it’s the romantic relationship; it’s the wine; it’s the sex; it’s the food; it’s going to another country where I change my reference points; but in truth, none of that is doing it. All that is happening is that the mind is being tricked into being quiet for a moment. So the mind falls silent for a moment and suddenly the immensity of this moment is revealed in all its grandeur, in its simplicity and purity. Now that moment is one and the same as the source supposedly “inside” of you because, you see, this inside/outside business is really an illusion, a convention of the mind. If you go inside yourself you’re just going to find your innards. Your physical innards all the way down to cells and atoms and molecules and sub-atomic particles.
Questioner: My sense of the present moment is not really a thing; even the things I’m seeing seem to persist because of memory.
Philip: The labeling is in the memory; that is correct. So when there is a mental categorization like “chair” for example, we call this a chair…but just to experience it with openly, without mental categorizing, with just open consciousness, it’s seen that it’s not really a chair. It’s just this something. Now it’s the same experience that you see when you look in the eyes of a very young infant, a young child in the pre-verbal stage, before they are conceptualizing. They always have that kind of open-eyed wonder. Well that’s the same thing as bare consciousness. The only difference is that you have a self sentient mind after the ego is developed and then transcended afterwards. The mind still functions; we don’t become an enlightened cauliflower; that’s not what we’re engaged in. So you maintain the faculties of the mind, but you also at the same time are able to recapture that primal innocence that we had in our preverbal stage as an infant, as a young child. The wonder, the vividness of reality.
Now what happens is that normally in these peak experiences the ego convinces you that the reason you’re having this peak experience is because of something outside of you. You met the right person, it’s your vacation, somebody did something nice to you, someone left you an inheritance, or smiled at you, and so forth. It could be the tiniest thing or the most spectacular thing. But it always ends up with the ego-self saying “now the reason you’re feeling this way is because of something that’s outside of you that happened to you”. In reality all that’s going on is that the mind is being tricked into being quiet. The mind is being stopped forcefully. And in that stopping the mind experiencess a moment of desirelessness. Whenever there is no desire, there is peace, happiness.
Questioner: I had an experience years ago, it was very very brief; it wouldn’t be right even to call it an experience. It was only an experience after the fact but when it was happening it was like there was nothing there…like I was not there. No body sensations, no mental activity; it was absolutely gone, and when I came out of it, it was very profound. I was crying, I was laughing, but it just didn’t seem to mesh with everyday experience.
Philip: Yes, you weren’t ready to integrate it or sustain it, at the time. And that’s absolutely okay, because it often happens that way. Awakening is often heralded by mini-awakenings. In Zen they call them satoris. They don’t last, they’re not meant to last, because your personality system is adjusting to the possibility that there is a greater reality. Eventually, if you persist in the sincerity of your seeking, your personality is going to relinquish its hold on you; it’s going to let go. It’s going to give up the game.
Questioner: Being here, with you, does that facilitate that happening?
Philip: If It is in accordance with your intention, but how and when it happens, is an absolute mystery. It’s a function of Grace. It’s not in the hands of the separate identity that you think you are or that you think I am. It’s not in the hands of Jeff. There actually isn’t any Jeff; Jeff is just an idea in space and time. There is this enormous reality, the One Will, God’s Will, that is just hovering in the background of Jeff. Very gently and patiently waiting to come, in soft steps, to make its entry. But it can happen in a moment, for example when you’re looking at me, when we’re right here. In satsang especially the vibration is a little higher because our intention for two hours is set on the highest truth. So when you’re looking at me, or any satsang teacher, you can use that as an opportunity to have a glimpse of your own true self. Your true self doesn’t lie in this body-personality sitting here that you know as me; it lies in the purity of this present moment, and this momentary communion between you and I, two apparently separate identities. In one glimpse there is the possibility of recognizing the essential greater “I” that we both reflect back to each other. Again, not poetically, not metaphorically, but literally, actually.
An analogy I often use that is very helpful to understand this is of white light passing through a prism. It refracts into a rainbow of colors. If you think of the prism as the body, the universe, and the white light as being consciousness, the one “I”, then the colours that come out on the other side of the prism are all the separate bodies of apparently disctinct entities. An infinite number of colors, in this case. So you and I are distinct, unique expressions of the one primal “I”. But here we are; we’re both white light at the core.
Questioner: How do you know that? Is that from experience?
Philip: Well, that’s a great question, that’s the perennial question. There’s two ways of knowing. There is knowing through mind, and then there is knowing through direct experience. How do you know when you love something, or someone?
Questioner: It is a feeling.
Philip: Yes, that’s the best way to describe it; a feeling of love. But you know it’s a purely subjective experience; it’s not intellectual, you just know it inwardly. Now as you’ve probably had at this point in your life experiences of joining intimately with someone, even for just one second in time. Where you are so close to that person and there is such a harmony between you and that person, even if you’ve only known it brief moments in your life, that there is no distinction at that point in time between you and them; there is just this. That is love. That is the One “I”. What the mystics have always said for thousands of years, the ones who represent these teachings, is that this experience is available every moment. And available within the entire field of reality.
Questioner: Can you talk about your awakening experiences?
Philip: I can tell you what happened to this bodymind about a year ago. I had been a very voracious seeker for over twenty-five years; I had been all the way around the planet, had studied with many teachers, had many intense experiences of processing my personality, or what I thought to be my personality. And had very many dramatic awakenings, satoris, glimpses, etc.; had sat with a great many teachers. Seven years prior to this event of last year I had lived in a very intense fashion where I had been running a community, a very big spiritual community with many people and plenty of responsibilities. I was working as a transpersonal therapist, in which I would at many times be very open to see my true condition and at other times be caught up in my mind. I had taken roughly a year off and was in retreat mode due to a number of circumstances. One day I was sitting on a park bench at a duck pond in a suburb of Vancouver. I had been reading a book on Ramana Maharshi on a nightly basis. I put the book aside for a while and went to do a meditation on this bench, and what happened was that while going within (as I had done the previous twenty-five years, using every possible technique there was), for the first time there was a complete cessation of doing. There was no doing, no efforting; it was pure non-doing and I found myself sitting there wondering, so to speak, what this non-doing was. I noticed that in the non-doing there was a deep, profound relaxation and merging with the moment. And then there was a sense of light on the inside; a sense of radiance on the inside. Not a scintillating , brilliant light, just a very vivid, clear light. And as I opened my eyes I realized that I had returned to a place that I had known in some ancient, timeless space. It felt like childhood again but it really wasn’t; it was much more than that. And it had to do with complete non-doing, complete cessation of effort. That was the key. And then there was the thought, “well, this is probably a peak experience”, as the mind later on, continued to generate thoughts and struggled to make sense of the experience.
You see, with entering into the realization of yourself as consciousness, the mind doesn’t stop. That’s one of the myths about awakening. The mind doesn’t suddenly stop; the personality isn’t suddenly obliterated; it actually has its own function in the world, because it has too look after the body. And it has its own kind of mechanical history. So, residues continue to be there. There are contractions in personality that happen from time to time. But what has happened since that day is that there is a constant ongoing recognition that I am not the personality, I am not the mind. And so there has been this sense of both emptiness and fullness at the same time, as well as a loss of attachment. What I would describe as a 99% loss of attachment. A 1% residue is sort of there at times, as a kind of a mind-static that appears from time to time, more related to the body. But overall there has been a real impersonal loss of attachment.
Now, from what I have been taught, from what I understand and from what I am experiencing within myself, there is a period after that initial glimpse into seeing your true nature when it stabilizes, there is a period of integration after that. Satyam Nadeen calls it “the deliverance”, which he said continues for seven years after that, Papaji said seven or eight years as well, and that is bearing out as being my experience as well. There is a period of disentanglement that happens, once you see that your iceberg, the iceberg of who you thought you were is fractured into pieces. You see it very clearly, you recognize it; you’re not a unified chunk; the ego is just a collection of thoughts. There is a period of time of those other iceberg chunks moving away and melting back into the ocean; and there is a recognition that you’re disentangling, and integrating your understanding at the same time.
Questioner: And being in the seeker mode…does that continue through that period?
Philip: That’s one thing that has disappeared. And that’s a good question; because that’s another essential part of the awakening process; is that there is a direct, absolute realization that there is no one who attains enlightenment. The whole idea is a fallacy. What it really is, is just shifting from that iceberg to the realization of yourself as the ocean. It’s the realization that your natural state, who you really are, is absolutely okay; has always been absolutely okay; and is absolutely at home, now. As A Course in Miracles says it, “You are at Home in God, dreaming of exile.” Dreaming of exile is the state of identification with the mind. The dreaming of exile is the part that gets broken. The at Home in God part, just stays there. Because it always was the case. So this is not an attainment; there is no attainment. It’s just rather a realization of that which has always been the case.
It’s the same thing like when you want to understand what was before the Big Bang, when astronomy talks about the Big Bang that occurred 15 billion years ago, or the Creation Event, as religions describe it. What happened before God created the world? What was going on before the Big Bang? It’s not something that can ever be known via thought. You can’t know it by thought; what you can know and recognize is that time is a creation of the mind. So within time there exists the ego and its apparent stages of initiation on the spiritual path. At a certain point in time there is a shifting away from this progressive awakening into the sudden realization, “Ah! It’s just this. This is just the case”. So at that point what you’re doing is that you’re shifting from time into eternity. You’re seeing time is the dream; eternity being the reality. So the answer to the question “What was God doing before creating the Universe? What was before the Big Bang?” is, there was no creation; there was no beginning to the universe. It’s just the dream world of time; progressive stages that occur only in the mind. Beginning, middle, end. The brain is conditioned to perceive reality that way.
So the shifting into awakening is the shifting into the immensity of eternity, of what Ekhart Tolle calls “the power of the now.” It’s just this; it’s not in time. What I’m talking about here is really nothing special; you’ve all known it in peak experiences before, in epiphanies. Moments of profound love and sharing with somebody, even if it’s just that split second in time; you’ve had that experience of the portal to eternity opening. Have you ever had that feeling when you’ve really been joined with someone and you think for a moment, how could I ever live without this person? You’ve all had that experience at least once in your life, right? We all have. To consider, how could I live without that person? It seems like an absolute impossibility. That’s the mind’s way of seeing — through the filters of the mind and the distortions of ego dependent-love — into the portal of eternity. It’s the ego’s version of enlightenment. Because the truth is, you can never live without your true nature; you can never live without God. It is an absolute impossibility. It’s only a trick of the mind; it’s the “dream of exile”. The mind can’t accept that; the ego (the part of the mind that believes you are a separate entity) can’t accept that because it tells you that you’re no good; you’re unworthy. That’s what the Christians called original sin. They’ve altered it a bit, but the original idea is valid. It’s the core wound; self-rejection, believing that you’re not worthy of knowing who you truly are.
That’s what the ego identity is based on. So the only way it can understand that opening of the veil, that seeing into the portal of eternity, is by turning it into a special relationship, a primary relationship. Which is why romantic love affairs get so glorified in society. And if it’s not the love affair with one person, it’s the love affair with vocation, with status, with having the “perfect life”, having “it all”. Even being “enlightened”. These are all the ego’s ways of reducing what can never be known with the mind into something objective and recognizable.
Questioner: How can you have that one relationship with yourself? How can you have that one relationship, without it being outside yourself?
Philip: The realization of your true nature is actually not a relationship. Because a relationship needs two entities. It would need some hypothetical “you” being in relationship with this other thing that is yourself.
Questioner: Why do all these relationships end up in dependency…why do they all do that?
Philip: There could be many answers for that, but on one level, one of the answers is going to be that it’s the mind’s way of interpreting the portal of eternity that I was talking about. The reality of eternity. God is an existential reality. You can call it God, you can call it anything you want; the Buddha-mind or the Life Force or whatever. This here is an absolute existential reality, whatever this is. But the mind can’t grasp it; the mind sees it in terms of separation because the mind is just a photocopy machine; it’s just taking photos all the time. It’s not Reality. So when you come back from vacation, you want to remember your vacation, you look at your photo album. It’s a substitute for what you experienced in that moment. An attempt to recapture it again; that’s what the mind is doing. So the mind generates many things, like religion, for example, as an attempt to capture that which it knows is there but it can’t directly experience. And so it does this by externalizing and putting it outside of you. “God” … it’s up there in the sky. And the mind can get crazy about this; which is what goes on in the Middle East; that’s the biggest example of that sort of insanity when the truth is externalized and reduced to a photocopy of Reality. It becomes that this is the only truth — an external object. We have the true external God, you do not. This pear over here is the truth; that apple is the anti-pear.
Questioner: So there’s nothing you can do?
Philip: A really good question, because it addresses the ultimate paradox of this whole thing. One of the misuses of the Wu-Wei, which means “doing nothing” in the teachings of Chinese Taoism — is to use it as a license for laziness. “I don’t need to meditate, I don’t need to do anything, I don’t need to read books, I don’t need to sit with other teachers, because I’m already the Truth and I’ll just forget about it and go back to sleep again.” So while it is true, as the ultimate principle, that there is nothing you can do to create your enlightenment, it is not true that you should do nothing. That’s the paradox. So you have to DO, as Buddha said, when he was on his deathbed and his disciples were around him and all upset. The great master was dying, and they asked him, “what should we do?” And he answered them in a very simple fashion: he said, “work at your salvation with diligence, and be a light unto yourself”. In other words, do your best. And then as Christ once said, “when the hour will come, nobody knows but the Father”. So you do your best and then you trust to Grace.