Part 5 – Teaching method
Q: Regarding the quote by Jean Klein: In “The Book of Listening”, Jean talks about how he thinks “books are dead” and do not carry the ‘perfume’ of the words, which is what is really transformative. And that what is important is the live meetings with a true teacher, who speaks words that ‘come from silence and lead back to silence’. In many books by Jean Klein he says to not emphasize the words, that which is behind the words. To put it crudely, Jean Klein’s main method, I would say, is that of transmission. So the books of Jean Klein should be read with that in mind. So I do not think everything he says should be taken literally. There is a lot more to his teachings, but the above is a very rough summary. Whether or not this technique (transmission) is effective is another matter.
Regarding the other quotes, they are just providing descriptions of what experience is like, but I never took it that realizing that this is true alone will make you enlightened. For example, Rupert, often says that it is not enough to know what we are not, it is necessary to see what we are [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOxfCkbWTZA around 01:30 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmDTwg8fAlE around 02:05] In other words, he’s saying that it is not enough to know what experience is, you must also ‘go’ to yourself and investigate the nature of that which is aware.
Francis has several videos talking about this investigation process where you must go to Yourself and ask it questions directly. The idea is that you have direct ‘access’ to Awareness, because you are it already and can never not be it, so this investigation and reasoning process can prove to you that you are already this unlimited Awareness. That is the shortcut. But this method will certainly not work for everyone. Francis has said many times that this direct path is not for everyone, and as a prerequisite there has to be some initiation.
This is the general outline of the path: first, as a prerequisite, there has to be an ‘initiation’ [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwc6Cxt9X5k at 21:44], which is a glimpse into our true nature, that only happens through grace. Then, through investigation (like the one I outlined above) and reasoning, you recognize that your beliefs are false and that Awareness is not limited nor separate. But the old habits persist for a while and you continue to perform what he calls a ‘post enlightenment sadhana’ (reflecting on the truth, continuing to perform investigation and reasoning, doing body work exercises (borrowed from Kashmir Shaivism)), until you gradually integrate your understanding in all avenues of experience (to think, feel, and act according to the truth that you are not a separate entity).
Whether I think this is an effective method is another matter, but I do not think it is fair to say that the direct path is just about clearing your mind and observing. You hear the truth from a teacher (about the nature of reality or Awareness, as well as experience (which turns out to not be separate from Awareness itself)) then subject what you have heard to reason and experience to see if what they say is true. You said in your last email that “Shankara points out that the ONLY pramāṇa for Self-knowledge is scripture. After you have heard it, you THEN subject what you have heard to reason and experience.”
I am assuming that what Francis and Rupert are saying is the same as ‘bottom-line’ statements of the traditional teaching. So my questions is, why is it not enough to hear what Rupert and Francis say, “then subject what you have heard to reason and experience”? I’m guessing the answer is because the scriptures are supposed to be ‘revealed knowledge’ and not written by man. (Please correct me if I am wrong or if there are other reasons).
But what about all the other traditions around the world (the many types of Buddhism, nondual Kashmir Shaivism, Sufism, and many more)? I’m sure there are enlightened teachers in all of these traditions. For example, Huang Po, from Zen Buddhism is generally taken to be enlightened. I’m sure there are many other examples. So how is that possible if the Advaita Vedanta scriptures are the only valid means for Self knowledge?
A: I spent quite a few years primarily with Direct Path teachings – Krishna Menon, Francis, Ananda Wood and Greg. I thought this was the best. It was not until I started reading more strictly traditional styles however (Chinmayananda, Dayananda) and especially listening to Paramarthananda, that it all started to become clear. What more can I say? Traditional has 2000+ years of honing of prakriyA-s and answering questions. Direct Path has 100. Sampradāya teaching is very well proven to work; Direct Path is haphazard to say the least. I suggest that the perceived benefits of Direct Path – short duration, do it yourself, part time, carry on with normal life etc. – are what really appeals to the modern seeker. Traditional requires commitment over many years; regular attendance of talks, sādhana-s to purify the mind etc. And you have to REALLY want enlightenment. ‘Normal life’ gradually subsides into the background!
Of course there are other traditions with different methods and teaching and maybe all (can) work. Because the end point is recognition of the non-dual reality, ALL teaching is only provisional and has to be dropped in the end. Advaita has no more ‘truth’ than any other non-dual teaching. I am simply saying that, from my own knowledge, traditional Advaita is accessible and works. I cannot say this about any non-Advaita method because I am not familiar with any. I can assert that neo-Advaita and any satsang style of teaching of Advaita are unlikely to work, because I do have some familiarity with these. I can also say that, in my experience of at least 10 years of principally DP-based study, Direct Path suffers from some of the shortfalls of satsang and lacks the rigor, breadth and depth of understanding of traditional. You should read my ‘Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle’ if you doubt any of this.
There is an interview with Greg from the SAND conference in 2009 here; and an extract from his book ‘Standing As Awareness’ here. There is lots of material from Atmananda Krishna Menon here. There is a two-part interview with Rupert Spira here, and my (long) review of his book ‘The Transparency of Things’ is here and there is an extract from the book here. My recommended library of Direct Path books is here.