Photo by Dan Roizer on Unsplash
Find freedom in the flow of life.
Ramesh Balsekar was one of the first teachers whose writings I encountered. A man of the world, a businessman, he rose to become President of the Bank of India. In his latter years, he was a disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj and was influenced by the Irish Taoist sage, Wei Wu Wei.
Ramesh’s core message, his line of reasoning, is unpalatable to believers in personal free will. Many non-dualist teachers hold their assault on free will until late in the progression of their teachings, looking to ‘soften the ground’ first with other aspects of perspective shifting. But Ramesh moves straight to it from his starting axiom of non-dualism: All there is is consciousness, and consciousness is all there is.
Ramesh often speaks of God, but you can substitute Source, Consciousness, Awareness, the Universe, or another term that works best for you.
All there is is Consciousness, not aware of Itself in Its noumenal Subjectivity, but perceived by Itself as phenomenal manifestation in Its objective expression. If this is understood in depth, there is nothing more to be understood. (210)*
God is all that exists, and there is no God’s eye view. God doesn’t experience heaven, and She doesn’t experience earth from a heavenly vantage. She only experiences Herself AS the world THROUGH Herself as the awareness of its sentient beings.
In the functioning of manifestation comes the second basic concept-no “one” does anything. Nothing happens unless it is the will of the Source, the will of God. This means the ego is an illusion. The sense of personal doership is an illusion. This is the final understanding. (278)
This is the core of Ramesh’s teaching. You might substitute the notion of ‘authorship’ for his ‘doership’. If a tree limb breaks and falls, denting your parked car’s roof, the insurance investigator may ask, ‘What did that?’ You could answer, ‘A tree limb did that.’ So the tree limb was the doer. But it was not the author of its own action. Its falling was part of a flow of forces and events much greater and more complex than itself.
We are like that tree limb, except that one of the events preceding many of our actions is our choice of what to do. We ‘do’ the action, and we ‘choose’ that act over other possibilities. But each choice is itself part of a larger flow — too complex to unravel — over which we as persons have no control.
This person, this body and mind that you take yourself to be, is not separate from God. Nothing is, and nothing happens independent of God. God is the only author of the Book of Life. This person that you identify as is not separate from the universal, unitary process that began with the Big Bang and unfolded in inconceivable complexity to this moment. Nothing is.
We are not the authors of our actions. The sense of personal authorship is an illusion.
What is the final bottom line of acceptance and surrender? That there is truly no “me” who can do anything. There is really, truly no “me.” (398)
The person you take yourself to be is an object, like a rock or a tree. More accurately, this person is a collection of objects — perceptions, sensations, thoughts — without independent identity. It lacks awareness. It is a series of Divine fragments experienced by the one Experiencer. This is true not only of the person with your name but of all people and all sentient beings. Nothing moves independently of the whole.
…the ego has also come from the Source. That is why I call the ego Divine hypnosis. The hypnosis is-”I” consider myself a separate being with a sense of doership. (522)
But these illusions are not mistakes. Each person’s apparently stable separate identity, each human’s sense of independent authorship of their actions, is part of the plan. It is how God plays, how God rolls, how God roles. God ‘dresses up’ as each person with their quirks, puts them in boring or interesting settings, and then experiences what happens. Far from being a screw up in need of fixing, it is how the universe experiences itself.
So the body-mind organisms of the sages continue to function exactly like before but without the sense of doership and separation. (529)
If the sense of authorship dissolves from personal experience, it doesn’t leave a person with a God’s eye view or a Divine personality. It leaves a person shaped by the same DNA and accreted life experiences as before, but without the illusion of separateness. Seeing through the illusion no doubt serves as a powerful life experience that becomes part of their ongoing conditioning, but it does not erase their peculiarities or deep-seated habits. Those who used to find the person delightful will probably continue to do so. Those who found them rude or tedious are unlikely to see behaviour that changes their opinion. The ‘enlightened person’ is still a body and a mind, but one awakened from the dream of separateness.
My concept of all spiritual search is to have that peace which prevails during deep sleep even during the waking state, during your ordinary working life. And that kind of peace prevails in your daily life if this happens: there is no ego to feel guilt, pride, hate, or envy. (544)
This awakening, this dissolution of illusory separateness, bestows the peace of dreamless sleep in the waking state. The ego is absent from deep sleep. Now, without a busy ego worrying about the future, judging others and dwelling on the past on behalf of the person, even waking life — including its ups and downs — becomes effortless. Energy previously dissipated in egoic churn is now available for living life rather than narrating it.
What is seeking? Seeking is “you” wanting to know God. Whatever you know is an object, and you are the subject. So if you want to know God, what does it mean? You are the subject and God is the object, but what exists is the other way around. God is the Subject and you are the object. (938)
A person understanding God would be akin to a rock understanding a geologist. A person is an unaware object, one attribute of which is an illusory sense that it is a subject. God experiences this person, and through the person, God experiences the world. Only God can experience anything.
The seeking ends only with the total realization-unquestioned, unconditional realization-that there never was a seeker. (970)
The illusory personal sense of separateness and the seeking are one and the same. Seeking is an experience God has of pretending She is lost and looking for Herself. The seeking ends with an experiential recognition beyond question that, while there has been an experience of seeking, there has never been a seeker.
When that final understanding is about to happen, the one who is so anxious to know whether the final understanding has happened or not will finally say, “Who cares?” Has the understanding happened or not? Who cares? (1573)
The final understanding: There is and never was a seeker. At that understanding’s cusp, you see yourself at last not as the person, but as God Herself. The person is an object, but You are the subject in which all objects arise. You are the experiencing of everything that arises. When You recognise this, You no longer care whether this or any person has reached the final understanding, because You’ve ceased identifying as a person. You realise You are not the person. You are God experiencing Yourself through the person.
Now, You see this always has been the case. Even when experiencing the illusion of separateness, You were God. You recognise that You, as God, do this through and as every person who has lived or ever will.
Normal daily activities, continued without a sense of doership, are the best possible preparation for sudden enlightenment to happen. (1586)
In the meantime, what is ‘one’ to do? The final understanding is that, as persons, we do not author our actions. But until experience corroborates intellectual understanding, while we still feel like a person, seeking, while we wrestle with fully absorbing the final understanding, how shall we prepare? While God’s experience of the world through us continues to include the illusion that She is a separate person with our name, we should carry on our daily activities. A Taoist might say, ‘Chop wood, carry water.’ As we do, if God wills it, we may increasingly do so without a sense of initiating the action ourselves. We may glimpse, with increasing frequency and duration, moving with and as the flow of life, not separate from it.
Some scold Ramesh for not giving more guidance about the path to experiential understanding. He puts great faith in the power of attaining true clarity. Truly grasping non-dualism will bring, he tells us, a sudden and complete shift in perspective, dissolving the sense of separateness and authorship.
Many argue that true clarity can only come to those who prepare themselves for it. A developmental path provides this preparation, but Ramesh seems to ignore it. They also worry that, by emphasising our non-authorship to readers and listeners unprepared for it, he may undermine personal responsibility, to society’s detriment.
These questions are for each of us to consider, ideally after reading Ramesh’s work and others’ commentary on it.
* All citations refer to Kindle locations in Ramesh Balsekar’s Who Cares?!