Q.384 – Dark night of the soul

Q: Please help me.I had a temporary glimpse of reality around 15 months ago by following 8 fold path. I tried to penetrate the question of suffering and learned that everything wants to come into Equilibrium (a known chemistry fact) due to which my thought trains stopped and I got an instant realization of something called reality. After that, I experienced I am a silent witness and not mind, body, ego, etc.

This faded away after some time and now I am in mental anguish and turmoil. I don’t know what is happening in my mind but it is disturbed or in what people call the “Dark night of soul”. Every joy is lost now; I get angry easily and have feelings of despair from something. Maybe it is because I didn’t discipline my mind with ethics before starting this practice for enlightenment. Please save me now. Whatever is going on in my head, save me from it. I don’t know how to complete surrender unto reality and may be this is due to the hold of ego. Please help!

A (Dennis): The teaching tradition of Advaita is all about Self-knowledge. You listen to the teaching from a qualified teacher (ideally) or read about it and discuss it (less good). You ask questions about it to resolve your doubts. Eventually, you realize that what is being said is true and that is that. In theory!

The problem is that you need a clear, self-controlled mind and some trust in the teacher, the ability to discriminate and so on. These ‘skills’ are not really a part of Advaita – they are mostly lifted from Patanjali’s Yoga system. If you have no mental discipline along these lines, you are never going to be able to assimilate the teaching. You need at least a medium level of attainment. With that you can take on board the knowledge and then continue your practices until you reap all the other benefits (peace of mind, fearlessness and so on).

From what you say, I would advise that you forget about Self-knowledge for a while and concentrate on acquiring the mental skills. Meditation is invaluable. And, if you have no religious-type outlook (praying to a god and so on), then the practices of karma yoga are the other main route – doing what is in front of you because it needs doing, ignoring desires and not expecting any results. And so on!

I do not know anything about Buddhist methods so cannot really comment. I would forget about ‘dark nights’. The main thing to remember, even if you don’t yet believe it, is that the world is not absolutely real. Your body, mind and everything else have empirical reality only, depending ultimately on Consciousness, which is the only reality. And you are That.

3 thoughts on “Q.384 – Dark night of the soul

  1. What is immediately apparent to me is that you want to change yourself into something that you have read and thought about because you see that as something preferable to who and what you are in this moment. All this is taking place in your mind and your mind will drive you crazy, sooner or later. It’s just the way it is.

    There really is nothing to figure out except your own indulgence in fantasy. Your mind is capable of providing experiences that you think you want. When you stop indulging in them, you will find there is no problem to solve and nothing to know or understand. You might even have a recurrence of the sense that you are the witness of everything and float around in bliss for some time. If you are smart, which yours truly was not, you will let go of it at once as you are experiencing where that road leads, desperation. You don’t need anyone telling you to practice this or take up any teaching or path. It’s all a fantasy on every level. Just breath and live and don’t get caught up in any spiritual nonsense. Save yourself a lot of headache. 🙂

  2. Hello Questioner,

    You say, “I got an instant realization of something called reality.”

    I do not know what exactly was that realization. But I would like to say, “Congratulations.” Because you said also that “After that, I experienced I am a silent witness and not mind, body, ego, etc.”

    Going by your own “realization,” is it not then obvious that the subsequent feeling of “mental anguish and turmoil” also is NOT you, who, in reality, is only that silent witness of any feelings that may arise?

    If your “realization” was really real, why do you now identify yourself as the one who is “in mental anguish and turmoil?”

    Why should you, the silent witness, be worried or concerned with “what is happening in my mind” and feel “disturbed in what people call the “Dark night of soul”?”

    So first thing to do is to “help yourself.”

    Stay with that understanding you arrived at: whatever may arise and show in the mind or as the mind, you are not that.
    It is not any practice that is required. What is required is “courage” to stay with your own experiential understanding.

    Having said that, I may also add the following:

    All these years of your life, you either suppressed or deflected your attention from all such arisings either by inattention or avoidance by covering them up through escapism. Now that they are naked without any such cover, all those feelings get exposed to the light of your understanding. Let them arise and die away by themselves. Anything you do with them will only nurture them and give strength to them. Let them die of neglect. You do not “claim” ownership to them and think they are ‘you.’ It is good you noticed them.

    It is the common experience of many to see the rising of such feelings when one is on the Knowledge Path. The only action required is just notice them and smile away. Do not have any agenda with them.

    I may suggest please take a look at this short Video:
    “Being with Uncomfortable Feelings”


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