This is the 4th of 5 talks given at a retreat where we look quite deeply at the most essential and foundational practices for a spiritual life.
These are longer than usual talks, and include some Q&A segments where we address some wide-ranging topics in some detail.
Anybody have any question?
Mmm… Too late. [Laughter] No! Go for it.
Questioner: Aah, yesterday you said something about, over the years, this spiritual way has been reconfirmed to you—
Acd: This what?
Questioner: Like this spiritual paradigm…
Questioner: …has been reconfirmed to you several times. I was just wondering like how so? And how do you know, out of all the—like you said you were raised as a Catholic, right? How do you know that this is the right path?
Acd: How do I know it’s the right one? It’s actually the left one. If you want the right one you’ve got to go back a little bit, then go that way.
I’ve been practicing and studying on this particular path for about 53 years, and I, although in the beginning, I guess, yeah, there was some sense of urgency and desire to dig deeper, but that sort of also grew over time. And so I’ve also spent a lot of time sort of digging and taking things apart, with a desire to sort of test the truth.
Well, actually no, that’s not correct. In the very beginning I had this experience: Although I had come to the point—I’d become so sceptical, like I’d met so many people, and gone and submissively asked, “So, what’s the deal? What’s life all about?” and I was constantly disappointed, that I knew that people were sometimes talking about stuff that they had actually never experienced, and it was evident to me because of my own experiences on that spiritual journey, practicing Astanga and Kundalini Yoga. So, I just knew a lot of these people were just actually full of shit. They’re just pulling it out of their you-know-what. And so that was sort of like, you could perceive it.
When I first encountered this process it was like, it really kind of blew my mind. But I felt both that there is something very real about it and something really that I was sort of like looking for, but at the same time I felt incredibly–I didn’t like speaking to people about what I was doing, even when I was a monk and stuff, only because I felt terribly unqualified. I genuinely didn’t clearly know what it was I was doing, and I had to go through a process in my life of both kind of like experimentation on myself, and digging more deeply into the meaning and reason for things, which led me to a growing appreciation that I was just—it wasn’t the result of me intelligently discerning. For some reason or rather I had been guided this way, and I sort of stumbled upon it, not by plan but by good fortune, but then I took the time.
Many of my, what they call like God brothers, in the association of my initiating spiritual master, I felt enormous difficulty with, because I saw there was clearly (although my understanding wasn’t so mature) I saw a massive gap between the teachings I understood and how people were applying or interpreting things. And so I had a very wonderful conversation with my spiritual master, at that time, expressing my great sadness that many of the people I was with, their behaviour and their application was very contrary, it was actually contrary to what was being taught. And he was extraordinarily kind to me, and had me travel with him for a number of months, and like every day, and I was like with him for hours and hours, and I got to see the way he interacted with others, the way he dealt with different things, the way he talked.
Even then I didn’t feel very qualified at all to speak or share what I had, but my confidence in the path I was on grew, and it grew more especially with spiritual experience. I was touched very deeply, and had some very transformative experiences as a result of the chanting and spiritual practice.
And then over time, really dissecting these guiding, like, scripture, books and texts on these things, and it’s just like, oh my God, it just, it was mind-blowing, because there was a logical and consistent answer for everything. And sometimes I had to work on myself to really be able to understand. And so my confidence is there for that reason, primarily because of what I have been able to factually experience.
They say one of the tests of spiritual life, the more you advance spiritually, the more you are drawn into a spiritual realm. Krishna’s realm, as it were, and the more deeply you’re attracted there. And simultaneously there is a waning of the attraction for this world and the experiences of this world. Things that were one time very high up on the list and were things to be sought after and experienced, they become increasingly insignificant.
So there is not—it’s not just a question of artificially trying to change, but actually there is a spiritual awakening and a growing of spiritual flavour, experience and understanding, and the other one really begins to wane.
One of the things, like you mentioned, I was raised as a Catholic. When I heard both of my spiritual teachers speak about Jesus Christ my head almost exploded, because they spoke about him and his teachings in a way that I could have never thought about and I had never heard and had never experienced. And so what it did, it gave me this insight into how this journey, this spiritual association I was with was so broad and so encompassing, and was so not sectarian, and (you know what I mean?) small and limited and fearful.
So I mean, just as one example: when—and I lived for a long time in the Philippines which is a primarily Catholic country, and a lot of people don’t know, within Catholicism they have, in each country, what they call a Council of Laity, and the Council of Laity are the ones that actually run the church. People think it’s the priests and the bishops, but it’s actually the Council of Laity that runs it. And in the Philippines they’re quite active. And they were active in political and social circles and everything.
And one guy had been introduced to me by somebody else, and they kind of liked where we were coming from, with issues on life and family and some of these things. And so they’d get me up in front of big crowds of people. And they weren’t just like regular people, they were kind of like leaders in their community. And they would have me speak on different issues and stuff. And I–and the guy, one of the top guys, I said, “Are you sure this is okay? Because I chant, and I have this whole other practice.” He said, “Don’t worry about it. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” And so, they could appreciate these same spiritual message.
And the reason I could stand up and speak to them about things was because of what had been shown to me by my spiritual teachers. So I could–I began to appreciate what—operating on a very spiritual platform, not a materialistic—You know, somebody can be religious and completely materialistic—and that’s almost everybody.
The definition, or the foundation rather, of materialism, from our perspective, is when people hold the idea that I am material. The idea that the body is me is the foundation of materialism, and the foundation of spirituality is the understanding that I am an eternal spiritual being. And within traditional Catholic doctrine there was a little bit of a confusion there. And they even have, in this Creed that they say, they believe in the resurrection of the body, and the body is going to join again with this the soul, whatever that is, and that’s what kind of goes into the spiritual realm, into what’s called heaven.
And I was once just speaking to about a hundred plus priests, and there was about forty nuns, and we were talking about social things. I was talking about materialism and the fostering of what’s come to pervade society, hedonism, the idea that my greatest good lies in fulfilling the desires of my mind and my senses. And we know that that is a pit, that is a pit of ignorance, that’s taking you very far away from being able to recognize your spiritual existence. So, I was talking to these guys, these priests and everything, and I kept reinforcing that we’re eternal spiritual beings, and all of them were kind of like mixed ages, and they were all kind of like nodding their head, and they were right on board with it.
And then when I finished, after about an hour or so of talking, I asked if there were any questions. And one elder, sort of really intense, nun put up her hand, and stood up and began to denounce me, not in a weird way, but she said. “This fundamental idea that you are proposing is actually directly against what the church teaches, and therefore I feel everything that you are saying should be rejected.” And suddenly everybody was like big-eyed and like, gasp! And then they’re thinking, “Were we sucked into something?” or, “Is this wrong?” or whatever.
And so I told her, my response is that, “While I agree that that has become dogma that is held by the church, and how it is currently understood, it is impossible that that is the way it was taught and understood in the time of Jesus Christ.” I mean there is one verse in the Bible that talks about, it says something like, I know a man who was carried up into heaven, whether in the body or out of the body I cannot say. And so it’s kind of like, okay, right there you’ve got this massive distinction.
And then I told her the consequences of embracing that dogma in such a blunt way and not a very refined way, is that you will inadvertently, or on purpose, begin to promote hedonism. When you promote hedonism, you are not helping people. You are setting them on a path away from any higher spiritual truth or reality. You are turning people into materialists if you promote the idea that the body is literally the self, that there is no distinction.
And so after speaking about that, she kind of nodded her head and sort of quietly sat down. And of course, it was a quandary for people. And part of the reason it’s a quandary is because, yeah, there is an inconsistency. But it’s like they’re full of inconsistencies.
One group about 500 people I was speaking to, and I told them, “What would you say are the most foundational guiding principles or group of principles that you follow in order to be a good Christian? Is it not the Ten Commandments?” And everybody agreed. And I said, “Is it also not taught within your teaching that if a person transgresses one of those Ten Commandments it’s categorized as what they call a mortal sin?” Meaning that if you die in that state of sin, that’s it, you’re done. You’re toast, forever. How is it that we have allowed a society to develop that is built on directly on a principle that one of the Commandments tells you cannot do, and that principle is “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods,” meaning that you should not look at what anybody else has and stimulate the desire for it too. That was categorized as so sinful to do that, that it led to people’s condemnation, utter ruin, spiritual ruin. And yet we have a society now that is driven by advertising, and the foundational principle of advertising is the recognition that everybody has a big hole in their heart, that there is an emptiness, and people have learned how to psychologically manipulate people and associate products and services with the promise that this will fill up that hole in your heart.
And the way they do advertising—it’s not like back in the 1910 or 1915 they had, you know, it’s kind of like, [holds up a glass and enacts the ad] “Okay, this is a glass. This is really good. It’s well manufactured, and it’s a reasonable price. You can buy it at Jones Hardware.” That was kind of like pretty much it. It was in print, but that was like what an ad was.
But now they’ve learned to associate—they carefully choose the models that they use, because they want those models to be appealing to the demographic that they are going to go after, to try and change. And they sometimes don’t even push the product in the ad. It’s just like, “Look at my wonderful life, and everything has become so perfect and happy,” and it’s kind of like—and then there’s sometimes not even a direct association, a kind of floating association, “And it’s all because of this product my life has become so happy.” And what they are teaching you is, look at what this person has. You need to envy them. You need to be jealous of them. You need to be hungry and go after that too so you can be like that. Is that not coveting thy neighbour’s goods?
And then I asked them, “So how can you all stand here, how can your Bishops and Priests lead you every Sunday, and you’re watching a whole massive undermining of society by deeply materialistic principles, and nobody’s saying anything? What’s with that?” That would kind of blow people’s minds.
But another thing that I learned in relation to this is that when you ask people that say they respect, honour or follow Jesus Christ, and you ask them, “So what is his most important teaching?” less than 50 percent of self-identified Christians can answer that correctly. More, way more than 50 percent get it wrong. You’ll find the bigger chunk of people will say, “To love thy brother as thyself,” or “thy neighbour as thyself.” And of course, my response to that is, “No. that is the second commandment of Jesus. What is the first?” and then there’s a bit of a stumble, and it’s kind of— people have to try and think about it, because it’s not like really present at the forefront of their life.
And what had happened is, he was questioned by someone that was seeking to undermine him. I mean there was all these undercurrents. I mean, we’re talking about historically here. It was like mind blowing what was going on. He was this radical dude. I mean he was radical. In the time of Jewish tradition and Jewish society, he was way out there. And somebody was trying to fault him, and they asked the question of him, “What is the most important commandment in law?” And if you understood Judaism, they are steeped in law, Torah. They’re steeped in law. It’s like they learn all this stuff big time.
And his response, “Thou shall love thy God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul, or being.” He said, “The second is like unto that, you should love your neighbour as yourself.”
So I’ll just talk about that second part: what’s become amazing is—I’ve been around for a while observing this stuff, and there was this massive influence, in the very late 60s early 70s, of all of this pop hippie influence on psychology and sociology. And this idea came up that I should be utterly selfish.
And at that time there were two books that were like best sellers, like massive best sellers. One of them was Looking Out For Number One, which was, myself, I need to become completely selfish and just focus on my wants and needs, and not make sacrifice for others and put things aside. And this is unbelievably materialistic and destructive. And the other book was called Winning Through Intimidation, and it was basically about what they call now “developing your own voice” and “being assertive,” but it’s actually learning how to beat everybody else into submission, so they’ll let you do, and support you in what you want to do. And it’s just like, oh my God, you’ve got to be joking! This is like a bad idea. This is going to corrode societies and cause societies to really unravel.
And a side point here. When I travelled into Asia, one of the things I really observed pretty quickly, was that in these older societies everybody was very self-sacrificing. People would put their life on hold to help family, like the first child in a family to be educated, and then they get a job, and then they give like half, one quarter to one half of their salary, back to their parents, to help their brothers and sisters come through school. And they will even put off getting married and buying stuff for themselves to help uplift, and to respect and to show appreciation for all the sacrifice that their mother and father made for them. And it was kind of like mind-blowing for me to see this, growing up here, and just in the Western World in general, where it’s all about me. Here you had this dignified aspect of older cultures where self-sacrifice played an enormous role. And it actually helps people. It’s not in and of itself spiritual, but it is connected in a wonderful way to a deeper nature.
So anyway, that aside: They came to this conclusion that—and here we go, Whitney Houston: The Greatest Love of All is to love yourself. Bwooow! [head blowing up] Oh my God! And if I start criticizing this idea a lot of people get really offended, “Oh!!!” Honestly, this is a totally crap idea. Number one, you can’t love yourself. Love means relationship. You’re gonna have a relationship with yourself? Only if you’re schizophrenic. What it’s pointing to is a disorder that was called narcissism, but it’s become so integrated in society you can’t even talk badly about it.
And I have heard people in religious societies say that Jesus Christ teaching, “you should love your neighbour as thyself,” that first you must love yourself, and until you’re perfectly loving yourself how can you love your neighbour? And I’m just going, “Oh my Gods!” [palm to forehead] Do you know how deficient that idea is, if you just embrace that uncritically and without unpacking it? (which we are taught to do: we are taught to become highly emotional and just accept everything.) But it was actually the principle of self-sacrifice, but that was the second thing.
The first thing he had pointed to was to love thy God, Lord thy God, with your whole heart, (your whole heart?) your whole mind and your whole soul, or your whole being. And it’s like, what the hell is that? What is that condition, where your love is not divided? It’s not like, “Oh, I love my dog. I love my wife. I love my kids. I love my car. I just love the new place that we got. I love that vacation we had. Oh yeah, and I love God too.” That’s very—but that’s in another world from what’s being talked about here.
What is this condition of love that is so ecstatically deep and so utterly profound that your whole heart is given in love, and your whole mind is absorbed in this overwhelming experience of love? What is it? How is it achieved? Do you know anybody that has ever achieved it? What are the symptoms? How is it manifest in the individual? And what is the experience of the individual? Zero conversation about this, and that is a massive tragedy. It is a massive tragedy.
And part of the reason is that there has been a shift in focus, from very early times, away from a doctrine of love to a doctrine of salvation. And we find that there were probably only two early influential people and saints within the early Christian Church that spoke about a principle that the desire for salvation and the desire to cultivate love are actually directly opposed to each other, because in the desire for salvation I am putting myself at the centre. And even though I may look towards a God who is more powerful than me and everything, I am asking him to render me service, save me, give me this, do this for me, whereas in the doctrine of deep and perfect love there is no ask. Actually, there is an ask! The ask is, “How can I please You, You the highest object of my love, how can I be pleasing to You?” And that’s just like whoa!
And the first time I heard stuff like this, it completely blew my mind. It was like way out of anything that I had ever been exposed to, from being involved within the realm of learning. And I’m not saying that there are not–there are. In later years when I have looked at and studied a broad range of philosophical and religious and spiritual ideas, there were extraordinary people within, particularly the earlier manifestation of the church, just as there were many horrific examples. But there were individuals that were just amazing transcendentalists. They were exalted spiritualists. But their voices are usually not heard. People are interested in other things.
And the reason I’m taking you down this path is hopefully it gives you a little glimpse into your question. What do you think? I have never encountered anything as extraordinary as this school of of, not just spiritual thought, but primarily spiritual practice, where people are brought in to undergo spiritual transformation and realization, and it opens them up to see the world and to see others in such a different way. You know, way different than anything I’ve ever encountered before. And that was just a tiny little bit of some of the things I have been a recipient of and heard, that are extraordinarily wonderful.
So I am unshakably, unshakably convinced of the reality of a higher spiritual truth, of the reality of that which is spiritual. I’ve had the fortune to be able to have some experience and taste which confirms that reality. And the way it has been presented to me, I cannot find the fault with it.
How about that? Pretty cool or what? Was that a bit too much?
Questioner: No. No.
Questioner: Very interesting.
Acd: I’m usually not this strong about stuff but I feel it’s good to talk about it.
Questioner: Yeah. So, like, sorry, when you said you were coming up as a Catholic you found lots of fault with that, whereas—
Acd: It wasn’t faults with Catholics.
I was mentioning to somebody, I became like an altar boy. I used to participate in the masses and stuff, and I really looked up to the priests and the nuns. I thought they were meant to be really spiritual people. But here I am a little kid, going along to do this thing in the morning, thinking it’s a holy duty, and it’s going to be uplifting, and the poor guy that’s saying the mass, the priest, gives me a safety pin, because he has a bad habit of falling asleep on the altar during the offertory in the morning. He goes down and starts chanting—in those days it was Latin—and then all of a sudden, the silence, then snore. And I had to like, part of the thing, go up and just sort of poop [mimes poking with needle]. And you can’t imagine how much that damaged me. It’s—all of a sudden, it’s like, whoa!!
That guy was actually highly intelligent. He had actually been sent to Rome, and he studied in Rome. He got to see what was called the Septuagint. They’re one of the earliest written Bibles, New Testaments. And he told me that he was, he had to sign, before studying it, a non-disclosure, that he would not speak on or write about what he read there, unless it went through their channels. And of course, you can imagine what that did to me as a kid.
And then the idea, we were given religious education classes and stuff, and I just had so many questions that were unanswered. But I felt that the, for me, kind of like the thing that sort of pushed me over the edge was the idea of forgiveness of sin. Within the Catholic tradition you have to actually go and confess your sin to a person, which is the priest, meant to be the representative of God, so that you could become forgiven.
And so—I don’t know how old I was. It was in primary school, and maybe I was about 10, 11. And I asked the nun giving us the religious class, “What would happen if I had committed a grave sin, and I knew I had done wrong, and I knew I needed to seek some forgiveness and redress for this thing. So I decide—and I haven’t actually done it, I haven’t like prayed about it or anything, but I accept I’ve done wrong, and I need to set it right. And so, I’m going to go to the church to the confessional and confess to a priest, and as I cross the road I get hit by a car, and I get killed. What would happen to me?”
And, without batting an eye, the nun told me I would go to hell. And I just went like, Pwoooww! That’s it! I’m sorry, I cannot accept that, if there is a great transcendent personality, God, that He would have a lower standard of compassion than myself. I just can’t accept and believe that. This—it means you don’t understand something, or it’s been presented wrong. And so I kind of shut down there, and started searching, and eventually discovered books on yoga and Eastern philosophy and stuff. And that was very—that widened everything for me, and gave me deeper appreciation.
So there—but, when you hear, particularly with a couple of the former popes, I would sometimes read some of the things that they would put out. Some of the stuff that they put out is mind-blowingly good, meaning it’s right on point from a philosophical, a spiritual point of view. But it’s not enacted and practiced and taught. You know, amongst the regular communities everybody’s trying to do their best. There’s a bunch of really nice and pious people. But my appreciation for Jesus Christ and what he was actually teaching has arisen because of my association with my spiritual teachers.
Is that okay, not going to get mad at me? No, I know you’re not. I’m teasing.
Sorry, that was a major—was this okay for you guys, or what?
Acd: You learn things by these kind of conversations, these kind of discussions, these examinations of these spiritual teachings.
Questioner: What did Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad said about the gap when you told him between the behaviour and the teachings?
Acd: He didn’t say anything. She asked me like when I asked Bhaktivedanta Swami about the gap I observed between what is being taught and what is being actually practiced. What he did was he assigned me to assist a very wonderful personality that was making wonderful spiritual advancement. He assigned me to assist him, and then he said, a couple of days later, that he gave an order that while he was traveling in India that the two of us had to be with him wherever he went.
So he didn’t—I mean it’s difficult and challenging when you are trying to offer something that is so amazing and wonderful but then you’re dealing with people that are incredibly imperfect and very immature. It was like a bunch of kids, who bring a lot of bad character and things to the table.
And so what became apparent to me, it was simply, you do the best that you can with what you’ve got to work with. And there was an unshakable faith in knowing that as long as you engage in the practice sincerely, even though you may be filled with imperfection and very fallen, this spiritual sound is so powerful it will purify people and uplift them—as long as they do not commit very grave personal attacks on others who are endeavouring spiritually, and as long as they do not cross certain lines. There are certain things that will make it so spiritual sound doesn’t affect you, doesn’t work on you. And as long as you don’t stray into that territory, you can be utterly fallen and sinful and just trying to do the best you can and getting on with stuff, and yes, you will totally become purified and grow in your understanding.
But you can’t artificially create saints (yeah?) just by even laying down what’s good behaviour. I mean in Bhagavad-gita Krishna says that if a person is observing all of the good behaviour externally, but internally they are still hungering for material enjoyment, then they are—it’s a pretense. But the world by nature, the living beings in the world, we are here because of imperfection, and it’s a question of finding the way forward.
If we—one of the big flaws that we have as human beings, just within conventional material life, we are constantly embracing all of these false expectations, unrealistic expectations. I really expect somebody that I feel affectionate towards, that that person will always love me and love me very wonderfully. And not true! It generally doesn’t work like that. Occasionally it does. We just—the idea that I can find a perfect home, I can find perfect happiness in this world and material experience, no, this is not true. And yet everybody chases this. This is the expectation. This is the goal. And it’s unrealistic.
And so when things are not so black and white—A person can be wearing the robes of a monk and be an complete demoniac force. It’s mind-blowing, because in my ignorance (I was going to say innocence) ignorance, I thought, when you adopt a certain lifestyle it means you are spiritually advanced. No, it doesn’t. Even if you have a relationship of diksha, initiation, with a guru, it doesn’t—it’s not a recognition of your spiritual advancement, or that you’re fine. It’s just a manifestation of mercy, and it’s a magnificent opportunity. Whether you are able to rise to the occasion and take advantage of that opportunity, that’s a whole other story. But when people look at things too superficially, just because a person has a certain attire, therefore automatically they are going to be holy or saintly? Whoa! That’s dangerous. That’s dangerous.
One comes to know things by what is said and by the desires that manifest from somebody, their priorities. One of the teachings of the Vedas is that you must learn to “see with your ears” which means you cannot rely on your eyes. Somebody can be sitting on a big chair, and lots of flower garlands, and flowing robes, and either bald head or hair all over the place, or whatever, and everybody’s—you know, you’ve got thousands of people going, “Oh, they’re so great. They’re so…”If you are relying on what everybody else is seeing and proclaiming, this is not intelligent. You can be so misled. So rather than relying on the eyes, one was taught to rely on the ears. You listen to what people say, and then you can make a judgment whether they are spiritual or not.
And the big problem is the vast majority of people have no training in what is truly spiritual, and so just based on some emotion they hear something, and they think that they understand it, and it sounds cool, “It resonates with me.” I’m a little cautious of the resonation thing. Although for me personally, when I first encountered this process of chanting, it absolutely, absolutely, moved me so deeply. I couldn’t sleep. I spent the whole night just walking around chanting, and I had to find out, what the hell is this all about? I really had to dig into it. And so that was kind of good example.
But they’ve got the other example that (and excuse me if I’m being crude) shit resonates with pigs. And so it’s kind of like—and the reason I’m saying that: Village life in India, nobody has indoor toilets, so everybody goes out to the fields or to a riverbank or beside the railway lines. And kids, they would go in the morning to go do their business, with a can of water to clean themselves, and a stick. Why do they have a stick? Because you’ve got to keep the pigs away until you’re finished. If you don’t keep the pigs away, they’ll knock you over for the hot breakfast. Sorry. This is simple reality. This is the nature of things.
And so when I say that rather crude term (and forgive me anybody, if you’re offended), that shit resonates with pigs, according to the state of your consciousness, of your mind and covering, there will be things that appeal to you, and just because they appeal to you, you’ve got to consider, “Is it appealing to me, the spiritual being within, or is it appealing to my vanity? Is it appealing to this promise of material sensual perfection and enjoyment? What is it?” What’s resonating with what is often not really considered.
And so the importance of actually, to some degree, learning the fundamentals of spiritual life, are really important; because then when somebody speaks you’re able to listen and see whether it’s in harmony with what is presented by sastra (which is these spiritual texts, called sastra) or whether it’s consistent which what is taught by guru, an actual guru not a fake guru, and by previous spiritual authorities. So one had to see that those things line up.
We’re almost out of time. I didn’t get to do what I was going to do. Tomorrow we’ll do it. Anybody else have a short one? I will try and keep the answers short. Yes?
Questioner: You mentioned earlier about the physical body, the material, and when we injure our physical body, is there a… yeah, I’m wondering what that means, and how we are, yeah [words hard to hear] that’s sort of a challenge.
Acd: What was the last part?
Questioner: …when we injure our physical body,
Questioner: and yet how that, and how we can move past that…
Acd: How we can move past that. Yeah. Okay.
So the system of spiritual cultivation has been likened to placing an iron rod within fire. An iron rod by nature is heavy. It is cold. It is rigid. That’s the characteristic of iron. But if I place it in a very hot fire, it will gradually become red hot, white hot. If I leave it long enough, and it is hot enough, it will even become liquid. But if I take it out when it’s white hot, this iron bar is now emitting light, and it’s also emitting heat, and if I touch it to something flammable, it will burst into flames. So, although it is iron, it is now behaving with the characteristics of fire.
The process of actual spiritual development—Since time immemorial it has been the subtle and gross material body that is driving the living being, and the living being has just surrendered power and control to the mind and the body and the senses. When we begin the spiritual journey it’s really about the awakening of this consciousness of who I am, and then bringing the body and mind into harmony with the spiritual being, the soul within. And so now the body and the mind become an extension of the soul itself. And so a person can come to the point of living in this world, and they may appear externally to be like everybody else, but they’re deeply spiritual, and they’re leading a fully transcendental life.
That process is—or that transformation comes about through a process that is broadly termed as sadhana, which means spiritual practice, spiritual practice that has—there are do’s and don’ts. There are things that you need to do, and there are things that you should try to avoid doing, in order to sharpen your focus and deepen your experience of who you are, your eternal spiritual nature.
In a fully enlightened state a self-realized person will still experience the body aging, and the body becoming sick and perhaps invalid, and experience what is called death, leaving the body; but they do it in an entirely different way than a person that has no deep awareness of their spiritual being and they’re just totally absorbed in the body. The body is not looked at as being bad. It’s like it’s just material energy. Just like money: Money is not bad. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s just stuff. How you use it, and how it influences your consciousness, that’s a different story.
If we simply are seeking to constantly fulfill the desires of the mind and the body, without any awareness of the eternal spiritual being and what the spiritual needs are for the soul itself, then our life is a struggle. But if we change focus, even while being within this body, in this world, one can come to experience the most extraordinary and ecstatic spiritual experiences. They can become fully self realized and God realized.
Does that answer the question for you? Somewhat. Yes.
So, this is actually a really big subject. And so there was guidance given for actually how to live. And there was a need, which I’ll speak about tomorrow morning—and I’m going to use the example (because I was asked to), of, you know AA, Alcoholics Anonymous? You’ve heard of this? They’re world famous. And you have so many drug rehab places and alcohol rehab places that have embraced this program. Amongst all of the programs out there the 12-step AA program is the most influential and successful in the world, where people’s lives are completely changed, not everyone, but a large percentage. And it’s because it deals with practical realities of life and the need to be guided in a very spiritual direction. And so we’ll have some fun talking about that, because it’s really applicable to everybody’s life, the current life that we live. Whether you have a substance problem or not, you have definitely got a material problem. Is that okay?
So I think—are we done? Yeah, I think we’re meant to be done. So maybe just chant for a few minutes.
What? What’s that? I’m sorry I can’t [hear?] Ten minutes. No absolutely—we’re not rushing. I’m just concerned about you guys. I can do this all day. I love it. I love it. And I tell you what, in your spiritual journey, as you begin to develop understanding, and you begin growing, if you share that, if you share with others this most valuable thing, there is nothing that will transform your life, and there is nothing that will deepen and enrich your understanding than the effort to kind of share. As soon as you begin to share, you realize, “Oh my God, I don’t actually know what I’m talking about.”
My experience in India, we had gone to a city in South India, and I was trying to hustle up some money through selling spiritual books and stuff, to get airfare. I was going to the Philippines to assist in the opening of an ashram there. And we were accommodated by a rather wealthy businessman. He was building this huge block of apartments and stuff, and it was not yet finished, and he asked us to please take advantage, and use some of the rooms downstairs. And so we were quite comfortable. It was bare necessities, but it was good. And then he invites us to his house for dinner and to do some kirtan.
Me, I can do kirtan all day and half a night, but you ask me to speak in those days, I couldn’t speak. I had no idea what to say. I didn’t know what to say. And part of it came from my own realization that I have not actually maturely come to understand and appreciate this wonderful spiritual philosophy.
So we go to this guy’s house, and there were like four of us, this little gaggle of monks. And I get pushed out front to lead the kirtan. So okay, I’ll lead the kirtan, no problem. And of course, we know lots of bhajans and stuff, and we do the whole chant thing. And then we finish, and then the guy, he has invited a couple of brothers and some friends with their family, so there’s this mob of people there.
And then he humbly appeals to us, “Please can you speak to us something that is enlightening? Please speak to us.” And I was kind of like out front, because I was the kirtan leader, and I kind of like turned around, and I’m expecting somebody to help me, and they’re all kind of like pushing me forward, I have to speak. And I sat there in absolute terror.
I was so terrified because I had this realization that actually I don’t actually care that deeply about these people. I haven’t even thought about their condition, and what it is that I could share with them to help them in their way through life. I realized I was completely disconnected, and what I was doing was good, and I knew I could talk about different things and stuff, but I was struck with this, my God, I’m in such a terrible state. I cannot act on behalf of my spiritual teachers, behalf of Krishna.
And so I deeply prayed at that moment, and did go on to speak a little bit, but I realized, “Oh my God, there’s something major needs to change in my life. I need to take a shift away from just going through the external things and thinking that that’s enough, that I just comply with, go along with the program, and it’s all going to be okay. This has to become way more personal for me.” And it changed my life. It was uplifting. It was very, very wonderful.
But it was difficult. I used to be such a wimp, you couldn’t believe it. I was like so shy and just like this massive wimp. And one of my spiritual masters was always taking the stick to me, not the stick, but verbally telling me I was such a coward, and I’m such a pushover, and you’ve really got to learn to grow some spiritual legs, otherwise what good are you to others? How can you be helpful? And it was kind of like, “Okay, I’ll try.” So, there’s enormous hope in that regard.
Thank you very much. Haribol.