By Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo
All there is is Consciousness
Ramesh S. Balsekar
Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof
Self-realisation is the total realization that there is no one to realize (or achieve) anything
Biography of Ramesh Balsekar
Ramesh was married to Sharda in 1940. They had three children. The first child, Ajit, was sickly but brilliant. He died in 1990 at the age of forty-nine. The second child is a daughter, Jaya, who married, then moved to Bangalore where she runs a dairy business. His youngest son, Shivdas, is also married. He is a senior executive in the Indian branch of a multi-national pharmaceutical company.
Ramesh started as a clerk in 1940 in the Bank of India. Although he had no ambition, he rose to the ranks of a C.E.O. when he retired in 1977. During the ten years as its head, the bank had its most rapid successful growth. Thousands of people were hired and hundreds of new branches were opened in India and overseas.
He retired at 60. Shortly after that he read about Nisargadatta Maharaj who was teaching Advaita in a poor area of Bombay. Being deadly keen on Advaita he went to listen to him, and at once he knew that this was his ultimate guru. When he saw Maharaj on the first day, Maharaj was alone. On seeing Balsekar he said: “So you have come at last. What took you so long?” Within three or four months he was translating for Maharaj in his daily morning talks. It was not long after that that Ramesh experienced the ultimate understanding himself or attained realization. Even before Maharaj’s death in 1981, Balsekar was authorised to speak on Nisargadatta’s behalf.
Although their philosophies are the same, their teaching methods are quite different. Balsekar was much more highly educated especially in English. Maharaj did prescribe ways of practice like staying in the ‘I am’ or practicing desirelessness and fearlessness. But Balsekar has no sadhana (methods) to teach. Seeing that we are already there, there is no spiritual practice that can hasten the process. Just simply know that we are already there! According to one of his disciples, 5 or 6 of his students are already enlightened. However Balsekar says that there is no way to judge whether a person is enlightened or not, because enlightenment does not change the body or the mind. As there is no one left to enjoy it, there are no benefits in enlightenment.
Thus Balsekar, who was a bank president, a golfer, a husband and a father, is not an ordinary guru. He has an image of more like a family counsellor. Being educated in India and in London School of Economics he attracted mostly Westerners. He is a sage who is able to bridge the spiritual material between East and West. Although he appears ordinary and does not show any pretensions, he is by no means a mediocre man. In his studies he was never at the top but always near the top of his class. His leisure pursuits are in bodybuilding, competitive badminton and golf. He was good in these, but never superlative.
In 2001 when he turned 84 he taught overseas for the last time. He gave seminars for 4 years (1998 to 2001) in Schermau in Germany. Now one has to go to India to hear him. Ramesh lives in Mumbai and gives talks seven days a week at 9 am. Everybody is welcome and the talks last 90 minutes each. It consists of dialogues ---questions and answers. These are free.
The Teaching of Ramesh S. Balsekar
His philosophy is based on Advaita Vedanta and the total acceptance of the absoluteness of the Divine Will: “Thy will be done.” Advaita means the Source. The Source means unicity, Oneness, Universal Consciousness, Awareness and Non-duality. His statement of “All that is, is Consciousness” means the entire Universe is the creation of Universal Consciousness. Every human being, every animal, and all vegetable are part of God or Universal Consciousness (U.C.). There is no separate self and there is no other. Seeing that we are part of God, we are also beyond attributes, beyond body-mind, time and space. We are already omnipresent, eternal, the nothing (void) that contains everything. We are God! “An individual has no free will. Everything that happens is according to God’s will.” “Reality is a concept.” “There is no birth and no death. The final truth is that nothing has happened, there is no creation. There is no seeker and nothing is sought. We are dreamed up creatures.” All the above are his sayings.
This total surrendering means there is no personal doership. It also means no pride in success, no guilt or shame in failure and no enmity at another’s action. All action is that of Universal Consciousness and we have nothing to do with it. This is freedom from worry or remorse. With the understanding of Maya (divine hypnosis) and the Divine Will our subject-object relationship with the world changes to witnessing. In practice, “things happen. Anger happens and compassion may arise.” This contrast with ‘I am angry’ or ‘I am compassionate.’ With prolonged practice, the witnessing will lead to the state of ‘I am,’ which we know ourselves without any attributes except that we exist.
Divine Will also means that the body-mind organisms are all programmed leaving all humans without a choice. That includes that one can be either a Mother Teresa or a psychopath in one stroke at birth. It is inconsequential which one you become. Balsekar refutes the tone of fatalism here by saying that ‘the energy inside won’t let you do nothing.’ His advice is to continue doing whatever you are doing, as this is what God wants you to do. All thoughts, feelings and desires are reactions of the brain to outside stimuli, i.e. God’s will. Therefore it is wrong to claim that thoughts and feelings are ours.
His last conclusion on individual soul and personal karma is derived from this statement: “When we die, we go back to the pool of Consciousness, which sends forth other body-mind organisms to continue the cycle of cause and effect. Where is the question of reward or punishment when there is no ‘you?” Thus he does not believe either in reincarnation or personal karma. This is the general philosophy of Balsekar. Let us go deeper into some of the topics raised by him.
The Ego in Duality and Dualism
The Source is non-dual in its oneness and unicity.
But any manifestation of the Source must be based on duality where all earthly existence is endowed with interconnected opposites: male and female, good and evil and long and short. In any moment in life there can never be the presence of one without the other. Both (beauty and ugliness, short and tall) have to be there. The sage accepts duality that is the basis of life and is always peaceful facing pleasure and pain. This is because when the human being Self-realised himself he remains an object and he knows he is an object. His accepting of duality means he does not stay in pure happiness all the time. There is pain and displeasure as well as peace and harmony. So he lives out the rest of his life span in this fashion. The ordinary person (jiva) does not accept duality and he chooses one of the opposites (dualism). He only wants good and not bad, beauty and not ugliness. So in his judgement he chooses one against the other. Thus the jiva ends up miserable in dualism. Not accepting the not so good in life always means unhappiness.
Thinking Mind and Working Mind
This concept notionally divides the mind into two: thinking mind and working mind. The thinking mind is the ego. The working mind deals only with the job at hand at that moment, being planning or physical work. The working mind does not worry about the consequences of the job. The working mind, however, does draw on memory to fine tune its present task. It is presently concentrating only on doing a good job, but it does not make any judgement of what is good or bad. The working mind also continues after enlightenment when he has to respond to people calling him by name. In this instance he does not bring up an image of himself, when called. The bringing up of the self-image amounts to pride or deprecation, which is the function of the thinking mind. The thinking mind, the ego, is mainly concerned with the consequences of the job at hand. The thinking mind is not interested in the quality of the job, but only on the results, which could be good or bad. This ego dips into memory to project his wants and desires into the future and also its fears. The working mind dips into memory in order to bring its experience to give higher quality to his work. The sage being without the sense of doership does not care about his reputation in the job. The sage still has to live out his life span and therefore he has to answer to his name and to do menial tasks of going home and performing small domestic chores.
The jnani, the sage or the enlightened one, also has no will of his own. Everything that he does is spontaneous. His working mind is silent. However, the thinking mind used to come in and interrupt the working mind by asking these questions: ‘Is there a better way of doing it? What happens when you fail? These interruptions would reduce the efficiency of the working mind. With the understanding that there is no doer and one is not in control of the results, the thinking mind gradually gets ousted leaving the working mind to take charge. At the end of the day the individual finishes the work much faster without any tension in the body as the thinking mind has taken leave of the individual, and the working mind has not been disturbed or obstructed in its function. While the working mind is functioning there is no “me” present, and therefore there is no relationship between the two. As there is no “me”, in a dialogue the working mind does both the talking and the listening. On top of that there is no awareness behind the working mind. The working mind therefore is the same as the animal mind. The animal reacts to danger right away, but after the danger is over, the animal does not plan for the future in case another predator arrives.
Dreams: deep sleep, personal dream and waking dream
In deep sleep there is a continual impersonal awareness----- I am. This impersonal awareness does not include the ‘me’, the doer. Because of the presence of this impersonal awareness, we are able to say that we had a good night sleep, but there is nothing to remember. There is also peace attached to this ‘I am.’ Man has been trying to attain this peace when awake from sleep but it eludes this seeker. This peace is only attainable when the seeker does away with the ego, when there is no ‘me’ or the thinking mind. That means he is enlightened. In other words, there must be total understanding or acceptance that there is no personal doership in the seeker. When will this understanding happen is also beyond one’s control.
The only dreamer in both the personal dream and the waking dream is Consciousness. It is Consciousness projecting itself through either one or billions of sentient beings. It is not the sentient being that is creating the dream. It is Consciousness that creates us as dreamed characters in the dreams. When we wake up we realize that the dreams are not real. There is actually no difference between the personal dream and the waking (living) dream. Both types of dreams take place in consciousness. All objects and all appearances are dreamed. The people in both types of dreams are dreamed characters in the consciousness, which is the Source. There is no dreamer as such. The dreamer, Consciousness, itself is not an object and so does not have any nature of its own, other than as a mere reflection of its own Source. Perception and its interpretation take place through the sensorialized phenomena that are also dreamed objects. The waking (living) dream is dreamt by sentient beings. Their personal dreams are microscopic reproductions of the waking dream, which each being dreams in his personal life. We are both dreamed and dreaming. There is no such dreamer separate from the dreamed. There is only dreaming, the functioning of Consciousness. There is no entity to perform, nor is anything performed. There is only spontaneous acting, a sort of non-action because there is no actor.
Putting it simply:
(1) There is only ONE DREAM without a dreamer.
(2) THAT-WHICH-WE-ARE is the dreaming.
(3) Each “me” is dreamed, and each “me” dreams a personal dream based on the personal “self”
Briefly, “I”, the Source, am the dreaming of the universe, and “you” perceive it as a sensorialized phenomenon, a dreamed object. “I”, Universal Consciousness, being the dreamer and the dreaming of the universe would necessarily be awake in order that the dreaming may occur.
Putting it another way: You wake up from your personal dream into the waking (living) dream. It is only in deep sleep that there is no dreaming at all because in deep sleep there is no “me”. And the apperception of this fact means awaking from the waking (living) dream to WHAT-IS.
The main objection to this theory of our daily life is that in a waking dream how do the rivers, mountains, all the structures of the universe, vegetation and animals suddenly appear when one is awake and get switched off when asleep? And this happens to every human being in the universe---all seven billion of them. What about chronological time? Ramesh’s answer is that this is precisely what happens in our personal dream during sleep. In the personal dream there are also rivers, mountains of thousands of years old etc during sleep. When awaken from the personal dream one suddenly realize the unreality of the personal dream. And one is now in the waking dream, which is being dreamt by everybody in the universe at the same time! In order to realize that our actual life is also a waking dream one has to be enlightened. It pays to remember that the sage is entirely the same as before enlightenment with the exception that he has now extinguished the thinking mind or personal doership.
The Human Computer
Ramesh cleverly describes a human being as a computer. The hardware is the product of the parents’ consummation so that most of the external physical features come from either parent. The software is contributed by the Source. Since birth this miniature computer is conditioned by parents, teachers, professors, mentors, temples and churches and by what he read and experienced since young. Each human being is therefore a uniquely programmed computer with specific reactions to innumerable inputs. There are at least seven billion such computers in the world. When the Source puts in an input into one of these computers (human beings), there will be a uniquely programmed output from this human computer. No other computer will give the same output. Whether this computer is an ordinary man or a sage, the output will be the same. That means enlightenment does not alter the emotional reaction of the sage: he is still subjected to anger, fear and compassion if these are the features in his soft ware. An input could be a thought or hearing of some words uttered by someone. It could be a scene he saw. All these inputs are beyond him. The outputs are the automatic reaction from his body-mind computer to the inputs. Both inputs and outputs are beyond his control. He is not in charge of the situation.
Most Buddhists and Hindus will object to this conclusion. They would expect much more love, compassion and wisdom in a sage, whilst anger, fear, pride and greed would have almost been eliminated. However Ramesh would like us to believe that the arising of fear and its reaction of running away is part of the programming and conditioning of the computer. So running away from danger in a sage is entirely within the character of a sage if he is programmed so. Crying out in pain (“Father, why hast thou forsaken me?”) is also normal for a sage like Jesus. But a sage should not exhibit greed, anger, pride and deceit. When a monk was told that even Jesus cried out in pain at the cross, he retorted: “But Jesus was never enlightened!”
A sage is a human computer who has eliminated the sense of doership, but not the ego. The ego is required to live out the remaining years of his life span. The sense of doership is the thinking mind that involves horizontal thinking of regret of the past and fear of the future. It also means that the sage does not accept new conditioning. He is using mostly old conditioning, which is composed of his genes (DNA) and his early programming.
The sage now concludes that no action is my action or anybody’s action. All action is a divine happening through some human computer. All actions are brought about by the Source or God through human computers, which are uniquely programmed for those actions. If an individual ego tries to swim against this flow of life, he will incur pain and experience suffering. The sage also experiences pain and suffering. Having lost the sense of doership his reaction is different. He enjoys a meal, but does not ask for a repeat of that meal, as there is no thinking mind. In suffering pain he does not blame someone else for the pain, as it is incurred by the Source.
The Tenets of Balsekar’s Teaching Accrued from Nisargadatta
At this point, let us consolidate some definitions from the pointers that Balsekar learnt from his final guru, Nisargadatta:
(1) Noumenon This is the source or God, which is pure subjectivity. It is not aware of its own existence. It is only at the arising of consciousness -I am- that awareness of its existence comes about. This spontaneous arising of consciousness brings about the sense of presence or existence. At the same time duality is introduced with the arising of phenomenal manifestation in consciousness. The wholeness of Noumenon splits up into the duality of (pseudo) subject and observed object. The object assumes that he is a subject giving rise to a “me.” The other objects become the “others.” For this rationalisation to succeed in duality, a twin concept of “time” and “space” must also be introduced. Without space, the three dimensional object cannot be visualised. Without time, the object also cannot be perceived and cognised in a split second.
(2) The Universe and Sentience With the arising of the “I am”, this impersonal awareness will identify with its own body-mind, and the awareness becomes personal. However, all sentient beings are the same but each one is imbued with unique software, genes and conditioning. Otherwise they are all robotic computers. There is also no difference between all sentient beings, animals and vegetable, animate or inanimate. Subjectively it is sentience that enables the human to perceive. Sentience, as such, is an aspect of consciousness in which the manifestation occurs, but it has nothing to do with the arising of the manifestation. Humans can then perceive and discriminate other objects with sentience.
(3) Bondage This bondage is conceptual because each human deems himself as an independent individual (jiva). As such he considers himself as a doer responsible for the consequences of his deeds (karma) and therefore he has to be liberated from this illusory bondage.
(4) Noumenality and phenomenality This is non-duality and duality. Noumenon is the source. Noumenality is immanent in phenomenality. Phenomenality has no nature of its own other than noumenality. Noumenality must at the same time transcend phenomenality because noumenality (consciousness) is all there is. Phenomenality is the objective aspect of noumenality.
A pseudo-subject is produced when phenomenon identifies with the robot in which it resides. This culminates in the production of an ego. Although the phenomenal functioning is quite impersonal, the ego starts to assume the experiences of the robot as its own, a pseudo-subject. With this assumption of doership, the jiva becomes conceptionally bonded.
(5) Noumenon is what-we-are and it is intemporal, infinite and imperceptible. What we appear to be is phenomenon. Phenomenon is temporal, finite, sensorially perceptible separate objects. We are illusory figments in consciousness. How can this illusory phenomenal appearance be transformed into enlightened beings? How can this shadow perfect itself? It can only be done by dis-identification of the robot by noumenon. That means duality has to breakthrough to non-duality.
(6) The sentient beings are divinely hypnotised by Maya. They believe that they are separate individuals with their own will. Their lives are controlled and propelled by their own volition. But Advaita teaches us differently: we react only to outside stimulus, e.g. a thought is an outside stimulus. We do not originate the thought. With this outside thought, it is followed by a chain of reflexes and action beyond our control. The computer follows through with all automatic output programmed into the robot and the conditioning from an early age, the instinct, the habits and the early propaganda from parents and teachers. The concept of “me” has erroneously assumed that all the activity is attributed to self, which is merely a psychosomatic mechanism without real essence or entity. All there is, is the impersonal functioning and the inexorable chain of causation.
(7) In the absence of an entity, who is there to exercise the illusory volition and to experience the results?
The moment one fully understands, one is reduced to non-volitional living, the noumenal living. This experiencing would lead to a total awakening, at which point one would recognise that one’s whole life is a waking dream. What is left is merely a witnessing by consciousness.
This non-volitional witnessing of all that happens without judgement arises together with a non-objective relationship both to oneself and to others. That means there is no thought of oneself as an object of any kind physical or psychic. This naturally results in a non-objective relationship to others. It also means that all phenomena, sentient or insentient, are no more regarded as objects. There is now an instant apperception that the subject (oneself) and the supposed objects (others) are simply appearances. Ignorance is at once eliminated. It also means that our true nature is recognised.
Noumenon, the “I”, can now say in the words of the phenomenal selves: “ Be still and know that I am God”. It is only when the phenomenal self is absent that the noumenal “I” can be present.
The doctrine of karma is undeniable, but the theory of the ego has no foundation. Like everything else in nature, the life of man is subject to the law of cause and effect. The present reaps what the past has sown, and the future is product of the present. But there is no evidence of the existence of an immutable ego-being, of a self which remains the same and migrates from body to body. There is rebirth but no transmigration.
Therefore karma definitely exists. Karma is action. Events happen, deeds are done. These deeds are karma, but Buddha said there is no individual doer. So, karma means continuous cause and effect. Further effect becomes the cause and the chain of cause and effect continues in various lives. Karma is therefore the cause and the basis of life, but there is no individual doer. That means there is no individual karma.
Life happens in the horizontal flow of temporal duration. Each action appears to be followed by its reaction—cause and effect, the force of circumstances in the world of karma. The jiva does not accept duality and he makes a choice to go into dualism. The sage accepts duality of life in the functioning of manifestation. The sage, thus, lives and thinks in a vertical dimension, which leads to a certain detachment in his vision in the absence of a subject-object relationship. This vertical vision of the sage is a consequence of the awakening, and not a method to ‘acquire’ the awakening.
Rebirth or Reincarnation
From the above quotation of Buddha’s, he said: “There is rebirth but no transmigration (reincarnation).” However Balsekar seems to bundle both rebirth and reincarnation as one entity. He uses them synonymously. Thus in the glossary of one his books he said: “There is no individual so there can be no rebirth of that which does not exist. There are past births and from them, at the deaths of the body-mind organisms, the functioning energies return to the pool of Consciousness to perhaps again, in another combination, pass into a future body-mind organism. Thus there are apparent past-life memories by some other body-mind organisms of prior births, which are picked up by unrelated individuals. Eventually, energies of such refinement may come together in a body-mind organism in which the process of seeking ends in enlightenment.” This definition is rather convoluted, but what it actually means is that a person is born with a totally new set of samskaras (memories and tendencies) that has nothing to do with his own past life. The software is randomly programmed and is totally unrelated to any previously known individual. This point will be discussed in a commentary below.
Balsekar obviously does not believe in an atman or a permanent soul. This fits in beautifully with Buddha’s Anatta doctrine. The Anatta doctrine stipulates that the body-mind complex has nothing within or without a self-existing real Ego-entity, soul or any other abiding substance.
Balsekar further states that: “the future body’s personality will be drawn from the totality of the universal consciousness, which is the collection of all the ‘clouds of images’ that keep on getting generated. This total collection gets distributed among new bodies as they are being created, with certain given characteristics, which will produce precisely those actions, which are necessary to the script of the divine playwright. No individual is concerned as an individual with any previous entity.”
He further states that: “What is ‘born’ will eventually die, the body will be dissolved and the person annihilated. The life force will leave the body and mingle with the air outside. The objective part of what was once a sentient being will be destroyed, never to be reborn as the same body. And consciousness is not an object. It is not a thing at all. Therefore consciousness, as something non-objective, cannot be ‘born’, cannot ‘die’ and certainly cannot be ‘reborn’. As a process of noumenon’s functioning, the phenomenal manifestations of forms are created and they are subsequently destroyed. There is no soul or ego in these series of births and deaths. Who is reborn?
If the above is the case, how did the concept of karma, causality and rebirth arise? Instead of the phenomenal being taken as a mere manifestation of Noumenon, the ego mis-identifies the pseudo-entity as self and a phantom with autonomous existence is created. This phantom is supposed to have a choice of decision and action. This phantom is then taken as a self to be born, to live and to die. It then becomes a being who earns karma with the attendant bondage to be liberated. This theory continues to work out as this same self will be reborn after death, closely followed by the karma earned.
Quoting Nisargadatta to back him up, he said that Maharaj’s teaching did not accept the concept of rebirth. The physical body dies and dissolves in decay: and this body cannot be reborn. The breath, after death, mingles with the air and the sentience reintegrates with the Universal Consciousness.
What about the “soul?” This is a belief in an animus or soul, which must be an object to pass from one body to another in life after life. This animus or soul object can only be a concept. Also there is no way subjectivity can have an act of entitification, because subjectivity (noumenon) does not have even a touch of objectivity except through manifestation in duality.
In the temporal dream play where sentient beings are created and destroyed by the thousands every second evolution must obviously form the basis of the play of Life. In this Lila, every baby born would be expected to play a particular role in the dream play so that the play may proceed on its inevitable course. The sentient being, which as a mere appearance in consciousness cannot possibly have independent choice of action, is created to fulfil a particular function (whether as a Hitler or a Gandhi or an insignificant individual) and not the other way around. It is not that a new body is created to embody the previous soul so that it can enjoy or suffer one’s karma earned. Being not an independent, autonomous entity, he merely carries out his destined function. This latter function paves the way for the destined function of another supposed individual in the future in this dream play of the Lila. That means there would be necessarily a continuity between the form that dies and the new form that is born because evolution must go on, and nature does not start from scratch. The emphasis here is “continuity in evolution” and not continuity in the transmigration of a particular soul. This is why Mozart could compose those beautiful pieces of music at the age of twelve. He was programmed to be a musical genius in that birth of his. But there is no reason for a conceptual individual to identify himself with a series of births in the temporal manifestation. That means there is no fix soul or entity reincarnating life after life until the individual is enlightened!
This will also explain away the existence of the first cause. There is none, because the entire manifestation is a concept. Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed.
Enlightenment or Self-realisation
Enlightenment is not an alteration in our state; it is only a sudden disclosure of our state, of what we have always been, and not realised: pure Subjectivity. Discrimination between the interconnected opposites into which the Source has extended itself, through space-time, is the conceptual bondage. Acceptance of the duality of the interconnected opposites in the conceptual universe means transcending the conceptual universe—Self-realisation, Enlightenment, Awakening, the end of bondage.
Enlightenment or awakening is not a state of existence like that of a rock or a vegetable. It is a state, which arises consequent on the deepest possible conviction of the unicity of What-is and of the non-difference between What-is and what-appears. It arises after a thorough Self-enquiry, at the end of which all mental conditioning of dualism disappears altogether. It is a state of total freedom. All that appears and all that happens is accepted as an integral part of ‘What-Is’ and there is not the slightest desire to change anything or become anything else.
All the excitement of enlightenment exists because the conditioning in man has inverted his viewpoint to an extent that makes him think that the abnormal condition of chaos, unrest and conflict is his normal state. He thinks that the normal state of unfathomable peace and contentment (glimpses of which he occasionally gets in those rare moments when the mind is free of thoughts) is an abnormal state that must be acquired or attained by special positive efforts.
What sudden Enlightenment indicates is the mending of the dichotomy of the whole mind, whereby the division of the mind into subject and object no longer prevails. Then there is no subject perceiving an object: no “me” perceiving and judging a “you”. There is only the happening of a perception without judging, a mere witnessing.
How does an Enlightened being know that he is Enlightened? The question itself is an admission that the very basis of the subject has been missed: when the very basis of Self-realisation is that sense of individual volition, the sense of personal doership has been completely lost or annihilated. There is now no more “me” or individual. Who can know, who would need to know, and what would he want to know? Who is ‘to do the knowing’, and knowing what? Knowledge cannot be separate from the knowing of it; what else can sound be other than hearing of it? The eye can see everything but it cannot see that which is doing the seeing. “Consciousness”, being merely a conceptual symbol for that which is doing the cognising, cannot have any objective quality that could be cognised.
What is Self-realisation? The simple answer is that It can only be that which remains when this “thinking”, this “conceptualising” is eradicated. There is no more this trying to visualise and objectivise That which Itself does the thinking, the visualising! In other words, the very objectivizing of what is sought--Self-realisation-- is the only obstacle. Thinking of that which I am seeking and the way to acquire it is the obstacle. To put it another way, the realisation of what-we-are—that which is sought—cannot be “known” nor acquired, with phenomenal, conceptual effort: It can only happen. The happening needs a vacant mind, the total acceptance that trying not to make an effort is as potent a form of obstruction as making an effort. There cannot be any prescriptive method of stopping the thinking, the conceptualising. Thinking can and must stop without any effort for the conceptual entity. It can only happen, if it is supposed to happen.
If there is nothing that the seeker can do or cannot do, the question arises: what is all the seeking about? The answer is simple: there never was a seeker; the seeking began as part of the conceptual play of phenomenality. What the conceptual seeker seeks is the end of the seeking, and the end of the seeking cannot happen without the end of the seeker. The end of the seeker can happen only when the conceptual seeker comes to the realisation—Self-realisation—that there never was a seeker to do any seeking, and indeed that there never was anything to be sought.
Balsekar also says: The fact that we as separate individual entities, expect to transform ourselves into perfect ‘enlightened’ personages shows the extent to which we have been conditioned by Maya, the power of Divine hypnosis which has created the ‘me’s. We are only phenomena, dreamed characters playing out their respective roles. How can an appearance perfect itself? How can a psychosomatic apparatus, a conditioned body-mind organism perfect itself? Only awakening can make the dreamed character disappear; only dis-identification with the sense of personal doership in a supposed entity can bring about re-cognition of our true identity. And this cannot happen until our conceptual volition has been truly and totally surrendered.
Most seekers do not totally comprehend what they are looking for in Enlightenment. They feel that It must be something out of this world, something unknown. Some are searching for the peace that accompanies deep sleep while awake. The basis of this peace is because there is no doer in deep sleep. So this seeker must eradicate the doer by intuitive understanding. In actual fact It is Supreme Reality, the ONE without a second. How does one go about it? They think that ‘intellectual understanding’ is able to help. The truth is that intellect is useless in this pursuit. In the dawning of the awakening intellectual understanding must be transcended. In order for the penny to drop, the mind must be totally silent as in deep meditation. Both the working and the thinking mind must not be in operation. All conditioning since birth should also be totally erased. In this total void the seeker can then realise that there is no seeker or doer at all.
The Essential Understanding
The essential understanding is that we are all objects, perceived, conceived and interpreted by one another. The perceiver considers himself the subject of all ‘others’ as objects. But as a matter of fact, we are mere appearances in the consciousness of the one who perceives us. If it is a single source of perceiving, it is God or Universal Consciousness perceiving through multiple mind-body organisms, which are merely shadows. We are not real entities. If we can understand this situation and continue to live our double lives in duality, then we will not make the mistake of identifying ourselves with the body-mind organisms. These latter are mere computerised robots: there is no substantial essence in them. We can live in duality, but not indulge in dualism.
If we spring out of the concept of “time’, then we break the chain of bondage. We are now in Infinite Time all together with the Source as “I”: Subjective Presence, objective absence. We are all part of sole Subjectivity with not the slightest evidence of any objects. In this flash of wisdom, we realise that there has never been a seeker. There has never been a doer. This is the breakthrough into non-duality! We have now dis-identified ourselves with an entity, which was supposed to possess volition. Now for the remaining years of our life spans we still have to identity ourselves with the mind-body organisms without volition in order to live and function in the world. This is according to Ramana Maharshi “like the remnants of a burnt rope.”
What is the difference between the sage and the ordinary person? Enlightenment is disassociating the entity from dualism but not from duality, for duality is where he lives. The sage looks at what arises in the mind as a reaction of the brain to any happening in life as an event with which he is not concerned. Whatever arises (anger or fear etc) is not identified by the sage, as he has already realised that there is no individual doer in his body. It is only the body-mind that is concerned with the happening. The sage merely witnesses every happening without feeling responsible as he is not a doer, and therefore he is not obliged to do anything about it. The sage knows that whatever-is in the moment is exactly what is supposed to be according to Cosmic Law.
The ordinary person is convinced that he is responsible for whatever situation he is in. If he is successful, it is because he has always done whatever was necessary in the existing situation. If he failed it is because others have conspired against him. The ordinary person is a created object in the totality of manifestation. He has no volition and has no capacity to know the Cosmic Law. In order for him to self-realise, he has to totally surrender himself and all his attributes to God or the Universal Consciousness: ‘they will be done’.
How does a sage live his life? He doesn’t. Life happens to him. He goes through his routine chores as a witness. He witnesses his reactions when reading the newspapers and watching the television. He witnesses life happening through his particular body-mind organism and witnesses the various emotions arising when coming in contact with other body-mind organisms.
Elaborating further, all the “you”s and all the “me”s are merely appearances in consciousness. And further, the totality of the manifestation (of which all sentient beings are an intrinsic part) and its functioning is like a dream. Therefore the ‘enlightened’ person can never consider himself enlightened because the individual self has already been eradicated at the point of awakening. That means when the enlightened person wakes up he realises that there is no individual self there to be enlightened. Ramana Maharshi kept on repeating that we are already enlightened but we do not realise it. It is a matter of seeing the situation correctly with intuitive understanding: that is realising that there has never been a doer or a self or an individual. We are simply computerised robots in Consciousness. So even when we have heard other sages like Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta our conditioning by our software and upbringing by parents and school teachers etc prevent us from the realisation that we are mere robots without a self, without a doer. In other words we are trying to become what we already are. There is no “me’ to be enlightened. But we cannot with effort let go of the “me”. It can only happen to us when we are ripe and ready with deep conviction. When we are ripe with intuitive understanding, then it only needs the sound of a pebble or an illogical phrase by the guru to make the penny drop. When the penny drops it is a sudden flash into non-duality when our true nature is realised: that we are all manifestations of the One Source, that we are never separate, that we are mere shadows in this realm of consciousness. That means there is no doer in our body-mind organisms. The sequel of this realisation is that there never was any bondage and now there is no liberation either. We have to be “Just Be”. We have to get rid of the illusion that we are not free. We also have to get rid of conceptual thinking and that includes the “we” or “me”. What remains now is the noumenal “I” without the slightest objectivity.
Sadhana, the Spiritual Path
Following his teacher’s (Maharaj Nisargadatta) example of “Just Be” after intuitive understanding, Balsekar does not have a sadhana to teach. He does not give any instructions on treading a spiritual path. His teaching is that you just carry on as you are. One does not need to follow certain moral codes or prayers etc. If one has been meditating, continue to meditate. If one does not meditate, also carry on without meditation. The only exercise he asks us to do is to find out whether the piece of job we set ourselves during the day: did it come out as planned, or was it modified during the process of unfolding? For example we set out to go to the bank to withdraw some money. Did the bus bring us straight to the bank? Did we meet someone on the way and got diverted? Did the teller give me the right number of notes? Did I return straight home after that or did I spoil myself with a cup of coffee? So in this way, one can come to finding out whether the task we set out to do was strictly adhered to? Or was it modified or completely reversed? Most of the time we are diverted or distracted by other incidents along the way. That means the task did not go through exactly as planned.
In his book, “Peace and Harmony in Daily Living”, he did describe three types of relaxation: physical, mental and transcendental. 1) Physical relaxation simply means deliberately and consciously releasing the tension in the body. This can be done by either lying down or stop whatever one is doing and consciously release the tension. The second way is to indulge in laughter. 2) Mental relaxation is to achieve silence with the absence of thoughts. He mentions the interval between thoughts, which will bring about an enormous amount of relaxation. He says that ‘in any position, it is possible to be focused upon these intervals, even for short periods, during one’s day-to-day living.’ This is of course an impossibility, as you really need to have years of meditative experience to come to this interval between thoughts, let alone obtaining a totally silent mind. The silent mind is the beginning of voidness. 3) Transcendental relaxation is the ultimate understanding of the fact that we are all mind-body organisms without a self, without a soul, without a will. In this understanding, all humans are shadowy manifestations of the Source through Consciousness. Nobody is bonded. There is no one to be liberated. We are never born and never created as we are always part of the Source. When we die the computer hardware has to be buried: the essence or the impersonal Consciousness will return to the Source. The energy life force will return to the atmosphere. We have become enlightened!
In the mean while, one should continue to realise that there is no doer or essence in our body-mind organisms. Even the most menial task of blowing the nose is predestined. Nothing arises out of our own free will. There is no free will for any body. Every thought and action is God’s will. We are merely robots acting out God’s will.
Every one of us is a computerised robot energised by the Universal Consciousness, which is impersonal to start with. But as soon as this consciousness is identified with the body-mind that it inhabits ignorance sets in. This ignorance makes one bonded by the concept that one is a separate individual who is responsible for all the thoughts and deeds of this individual. This doership also generates karma, which will propel one through many lives until one is liberated from bondage. But the truth of the matter is that billions of humans, animals, vegetation and inanimate objects are all manifestations of God (Source or Reality) in duality. When an ignorant jiva makes a choice in this duality he goes into dualism. The truth is that there is no soul or essence in all humans: we are all robots energised by consciousness from the Source or God. We are merely shadows cast by the computer in the sun. Once indoors the shadow does not exist as in deep sleep, although the human body is still alive powered by the neutral energy of electricity during deep sleep. Whilst one is practising the spiritual path, one day one is awakened with this fact by intuitive wisdom or understanding. Then suddenly one breaks out from dualism into non-duality, from time-space duality one flies into the realm of the Source or God and realises that there is actually no doer or seeker at all. This seeing makes us enlightened. From thence onwards, we will live out our life spans in duality identifying our body-mind organisms for the sake of day-to-day living, but all the time realising that there is no doer performing anything.
The sage may still exhibits anger or fear, but this is according to the programming of his body-mind organism. Having no doer in his body-mind he does not get involved with these emotional reactions of his body-mind. He still needs to identify with his body-mind organism as he has to respond to his name and get about his home surroundings without getting lost. He needs to function as a human: to eat, to dress and to perform his biological duties. He will always return to his normal state of peace and harmony, as there is no thinking mind to worry him or to make him anxious. If his programming includes an unhealthy habit of smoking he will still smoke. If his body-mind is made to easily respond to sexual urges he may still indulge in these pursuits. This may be a reason why some spiritually advanced teachers are still addicted to sex similar to the addiction to smoking. However there may be no addiction to a particular person. This is a grey area. Their sexuality does not seem to impair their teaching. The sage can also be subjected to suffering from cancer (Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj).
There are only three points worth commenting. The first is the fact that he does not advocate any sadhana and yet he glibly talks about achieving the silent interval between thoughts during day-to-day living. As a meditator, I know that it takes years to achieve the interval between thoughts during meditation. To achieve the silence that is purely aware of What-is would be an impossibility for a lay person. There is no way that an ordinary person can come to this interval between thoughts during daily chores without extensive meditative experience. That is why most Eastern spiritual seekers meditate. Although meditation alone cannot get you there, but at least it can get you a silent mind most of the time. The other point is that if one does not follow a moral code, there will be too many distractions in practising the path. A quiet place for practice is also helpful. Maharaj’s advocacy of eradicating desire (or greed) and fear are very good points to remember. Although Balsekar’s idea that everything is God’s Will, it does not mean that one does completely nothing. Keeping within the moral code and practising meditation to quieten the mind are fundamental to the seeker’s path.
Balsekar uses Buddha’s quotation above: ‘events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof’ to disqualify rebirth. Seeing that there is no individual seeker in any body-mind organism there cannot be anyone to be reborn. However Buddha explained a little differently: Buddha said that each individual is composed of five constituents: body, feeling, perception, mental factors (habitual tendencies) and consciousness. At birth these five constituents propel the karmic forces to form an individual in this life. At death, the five constituents break up to leave as forces in the spirit world during which no individual is in existence. In a subsequent birth these five separate constituents will reform another individual according to the karma accrued by that individual in his past life. So the theory goes: in life these five constituents are inconstant, forever changing and are impermanent. When impermanent the individual composing of the five constituents is consistently suffering. These five constituents being ever changing have no organising principle or soul or permanent essence apart from the constituents. This is the rationale of the anatta doctrine.
However Balsekar uses the above Buddha’s teaching to refute the rebirth theory, “It is not that a new body is created to embody the previous soul so that it can enjoy or suffer one’s karma earned. Being not an independent, autonomous entity, he merely carries out his destined function. This latter function paves the way for the destined function of another supposed individual in the future in this dream play of the Lila. That means there would be necessarily continuity between the form that dies and the new form that is born because evolution must go on, and nature does not start from scratch. This is why Mozart could compose those beautiful pieces of music at the age of twelve. But there is no reason for a conceptual individual to identify himself with a series of births in the temporal manifestation.”
Buddha said that man psychologically invented the idea of God and Soul for self-protection and self-preservation. God is supposed to protect man for safety and security. For self-preservation, man conceives of a Soul or Atman, which will live eternally. All other religions cling on to these entities of God and Soul due to selfish motives. Buddha argued that these ideas are false and deep-rooted conjured in the minds of the Brahmins.
In Buddha’s teaching quoted in italics above he said that the five constituents will reform in another individual according to the karma accrued in his past life in a subsequent birth. This means that the newly born person is very much related to the previous person as he has inherited most of the software from this previous person.
Another fact is that there are many stories relating to rebirth as investigated by Professor Ian Stevenson and his colleagues in the University of Virginia. All these are very thoroughly probed and investigated: their criteria are extremely strict and stringent as they have rejected so many other cases. Balsekar’s idea is that an individual could have tapped into some other lifetime belonging to someone else and then call it his own. This idea is quite absurd. Why that particular life? And for children it is always only a few years back when that previous individual died. Quite often there are also birthmarks on the baby as imprints of the fatal wounds inflicted on the previous individual who died. To me these investigated rebirth stories are too water tight to be thrown out as other life times belonging to other people.
Wei Wu Wei
Balsekar appears to have been influenced a great deal by Wei Wu Wei. Having read Wei Wu Wei I find that there are many terms common to both. Having said that, I must admit that after reading all of Balsekar’s works, I find that there is no difficulty understanding Wei Wu Wei. Without reading Balsekar, it is almost impossible to understand Wei Wu Wei. While Wei Wu Wei spells out a concept in one terse sentence, Balsekar will reiterate the concept over and over again: the meaning sinks in after so much repetition. So it is Balsekar that helped me to understand Wei Wu Wei, who pronounced essential teachings in Taoism, Zen Buddhism, Advaita and Ramana Maharshi in his books. In this sense I am grateful to Balsekar. If one were to read “Ask The Awakened” by Wei Wu Wei the words and expressions are almost identical to that of Balsekar’s. It is so similar that one is hard put to name the author in each separate sentence, but in a paragraph the difference between the two is obvious.
1. Stevenson, Ian. Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. University Press of Virginia. Charlottesville. 1974.
2. Ramesh S. Balsekar. The Ultimate Understanding. Watkins Publishing, London. 2002.
3. Ramesh S. Balsekar. Advaita, the Buddha and the Unbroken Whole. Zen Publications. 2000.
4. Ramesh S. Balsekar. Peace and Harmony in Daily Living. Yogi Impressions. 2003.
5. Ramesh S. Balsekar. Sin and Guilt. Zen Publications. 2000.
6. Ramesh S Balsekar. Who Cares?! Advaita Press.1999.
7. Ramesh S Balsekar. Consciousness Speaks. Advaita Press. 1992.
8. Ramesh S Balsekar. The Wisdom of Balsekar. Watkins Publishing, London. 2004.
9. Ramesh S Balsekar. Experiencing The Teaching. Advaita Press. 1988.
10. Ramesh S Balsekar. It So Happened That. Watkins Publishing, London. 2003
11. Ramesh S Balsekar. The One In The Mirror. Yogi Impressions. 2004.
12. Ramesh S. Balsekar. Consciousness Strikes. Zen Publications.
13. Ramesh S Balsekar. The Divine Banker. The Source Publications. 1998.
14. Ramesh S Balsekar. Your Head In The Tiger’s Mouth. Advaita Press. 1998.
15. Wei Wu Wei. Ask The Awakened. First Sentient Publications edition, 2002.