Accidentally Insulting Adyashanti

This has been quite a month. From getting blindsided by Marianne Williamson to being empowered by Thich Nhat Hanh, I can’t remember a time in my life so full of growth and discomfort. And the hits keep coming…

Last weekend, I attended a day-long retreat with Adyashanti. Of all the spiritual teachers I follow, Adyashanti is one of the only ones that refers to his own Awakening. I never hear the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh talking about “when I became enlightened,” but Adya refers to this moment of clarity all the time. I find this comforting and valuable wisdom.

Here are some jewels of wisdom from Adyashanti:

  • Seeking is not about what we don’t have; it is about what we have forgotten
  • “Make sure you are always your own best student”
  • In regards to serving others, “if you start with the small stuff, the bigger stuff has a way of finding you.”
  • A realization of unity liberates uniqueness and true individuality. Jesus and The Buddha were highly unique individuals.
  • Adya also gave us all a mantra: “Love Well.” He instructed us to ask this mantra as a question. While doing the dishes, “am I loving well?”

As the day drew to a close, I raised my hand to ask a question, and Adyashanti called on me immediately. I asked about Adya’s description of Awakening. After awakening did one have to re-mind oneself daily, moment-by-moment to release arguments with self, other, life, and God?

“It is like being human. Do you have to remind yourself to be human?”

To which I replied, “Sometimes…”

“Bad example. It is like breathing, do you have to remind yourself to breathe?”

“No, but I’m thinking about the story of how Buddha reacted to hearing the news that his former kingdom had been destroyed and everyone was killed. He apologized to his followers for not being himself. I imagine that he must have felt some aversion and craving on this day.”

“It is a nice story, isn’t it? It makes the Buddha more human,” Adyashanti replied.

Then he talked about a zen master who broke down wailing during a dinner with some students when he received a call that his wife had died.

Some students lost faith in the master, but the senior student told them that they had missed one of the master’s deepest lessons.

I liked the story, so I felt the courage to ask Adyashanti about my Vipassana revelation, “I envision that awakening will not erase all our personal suffering, but will rather increase our sensitivity to suffering in general–that all life is suffering. This is where the service comes in. We realize that all beings are suffering, so we want to serve others to end their suffering.”

“Maybe. I felt like that in the beginning, but then it changed. Later, I did my Satsangs for different reasons. Now, I feel like I’m doing them because that is what I do” (these are rough paraphrases of what was actually said).

“Merely doing,” I said. I was trying to equate Adyashanti’s statements with the Buddha’s description of enlightenment as “merely thinking (cognition)” without judgment, attachment, or aversion, but Adya didn’t seem to catch the reference.

Turns out my question was the last of the day. While helping stack the chairs after Adyashanti had left, I felt an odd disconnect with the other participants. No one seemed to want to look me in the eyes.

On the drive home, I realized that some may have taken my statement of “merely doing” as an insult to Adyashanti. One could argue that I degrading all his teachings, retreats, and satsangs as merely doing. This wasn’t my intention, of course, and what was really impressive is that Adyashanti took no offense–not even a flinch or a pause. He embodied what Deepak Chopra claimed changed his life: Don’t be offended ever again.

So it was another lesson learned. Seems like I have a penchant for insulting spiritual leaders. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Perhaps it is merely doing.

Funny enough, after my question, we only had a few minutes left, so Adyashanti suggested we sit in silence. Everyone started rustling around to get ready to sit in silence.

“No not that kind of silence,” Adya stopped us. “Since that happened, the squeaking of chairs, which was the preparing for silence…Every once in a while it is good to look at even the most innocuous kinds of conditioning. Just the suggestion that we might sit in silence, if you notice how the conditioning goes, some special situation must be met to sit in silence. The way I was was was not enough; therefore I have to adjust and move and prepare for silence which as far as I could tell you were all already in…Is it true that any condition need be met for me to recognize the silence that is here now.”

The silence that ensued was palpable. Guess we were merely being silent.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Do you have a mantra? Have you insulted a role model, mentor, teacher, or spiritual leader before? Please share.

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