A client asked me recently what Adi Da had to say about the human body. Why do we have corporeal bodies? Is Adi Da for ‘em or agin ‘em? What should we do with the damn things? Why can’t we take them anywhere nice? To understand what Adi Da taught about physical embodiment we have to start from the big picture, which goes like this:
Adi Da – like other non-dual sages – teaches that all there is, is the One Divine Reality aka the Sea of Conscious Light. All manifest stuff – universes, worlds, dimensions, time, space, bodies – are merely “apparent modifications” of that One Sea of Conscious Light.
“The Great One Is your Very being. You inhere in the Love-Blissful, Forceful Being of the Starry God—the Mystery, the Person of Love. This is your Situation and your Destiny.”
“The Great One has Magnified Itself in the form of sexual beings, human beings, sexless beings, Earth-‘world’, form and fruit and wood and wall and space and star and sky and cloud and tree and life and death. The same Great One takes on all these forms—completely Indifferent, completely Free, completely Happy in all these excesses. This Is all the Great One. The Great One creates nothing. The Great One Is everything! What a Paradox! What a Mystery! What a Magnificent God!
“This is My Message to you: How Magnificant is this obscene, absurd, ridiculous, paradoxical Being That Is everyone.”
So that’s smashing good news. Except here’s the problem: you and I don’t know that all there is is the One Divine Reality. We can think it, read it, fervently believe it. We can have sublime intuitions that the Sea of Conscious Light is our Real Nature. We can even have overwhelming spiritual experiences where, for an hour or a day, we really know –self-evidently – that our true identity is the Infinite God Light. But those experiences pass. Temporary spiritual experiences, no matter how sublime, are not enlightenment.
Unless we are Divinely Awakened beings, our egos smithereened in God, our hearts boundlessly radiant with wild and ruinous love—unless we are as Awake as a Gautama Buddha, as a Jesus of Nazareth—we don’t actually know that our true nature is the Sea of Conscious Light. And that means that deep down, when push comes to shove, we think we are our physical bodies (and their nattering verbal minds). And this is not a happy belief.
“The body-mind itself is a kind of virtual-reality machine, a game of illusions…[But] you presume to strap on this virtual-reality machine of the body-mind…You are completely wrapped up in the presumption of being the body-mind-complex, and wrapped up in the psycho-physical operations with which you presume to be identified.
You are suffering those operations, because they all seem to proceed through time—and there is all the difficulty, and the breakdown, and the anticipated death, and all the rest of it.
You are stuck with all of that.
You are caught on the ‘train,” and you cannot get off it.”
—Adi Da Samraj, Notice This
Our identification with “the body-mind-complex” creates a primal anxiety in us because our body-minds know that they can and will die at any moment. And this is precisely where many seekers – and apparently entire esoteric traditions – go astray. They think, “This body-mind is going to die, and that knowledge feels bad, so plainly the solution is to get out of the body, into some sort of transcendent elsewhere.”
So people get involved in astral bodies, out of body experiences, trance states, ascending up out the top of the head into the God Light above. Or they take up meditative practices to identify with the deep consciousness aspect of the being and to (thereby) exclude the messy, phenomenological world and the eminently killable body (Adi Da calls this latter approach, “dissociative introversion” and “strategic detachment”).
All of these tactics can feel relieving – comparatively speaking – but, as Adi Da elucidated in breathtaking detail, none of them actually solve the “problem” (problem in quotes because our identification with the body-mind is evidently a total hallucination to begin with).
According to Adi Da, all of these dissociative strategies, even the most profound, are the strategies of the ego itself – the illusory separate entity. What else but the ego would attempt to become invulnerable (by recoiling, contracting, and dissociating from embodiment)?
The way of real ego transcendence, Adi Da says, must involve the ever-deepening recognition that all there is, is God – including these brief sloppy bodies and all their brief sloppy relations. Awakening, then, requires not merely subjective, mentalized, meditative practices. Rather, we must learn to submit to the Divine Reality in and as the body!
Consciousness without inwardness
Thus it becomes obvious,
Every object is only Light, the energy of Consciousness.
First transcend the mind, not the body.
Inwardness is flight from Life and Love.
Only the body is full of Consciousness.
Therefore, be the body only, feeling into Life.
Surrender the mind into Love, until the body dissolves in Light.
Dare this ecstasy, and never be made thoughtful by birth, and experience and death.”
And not only that but:
“So it is only when the body—the literal body—becomes involved, you see, and is submitted to the Life Current, that this bio-physical transformation can take place…And you see it is the body itself that is the medium of spiritual transformation, not the internal mind. That is not the one. It is the whole body, the entire person is transformed by the Divine Radiance, the Life Current…”
The Way, then, is not merely about, “being inwardly quiet, mentally involved, self-involved.” Rather, he says, “…there must be a literal feeling-surrender of the body-mind…then the Radiant Force of the Divine communicates itself bodily…The Divine Life Current must become most intimate with your body-mind, obliging it to go through stages of purification and transformation. Without the transformation of the literal body there is no possible Enlightenment.”
But things get even trippier. Adi Da says that you—you as your ordinary, day-to-day personality—are only the body. The feeling of being a “separate me” is a sensation created by and within the body. Hence this strange statement Adi Da makes: “’I’ is the body.” And Adi Da says that to realize that the “I” is the body – rather than some wraith-like soul “within” the body – is to live in a radiant disposition. That realization, in fact, is a necessary one for mature levels of spiritual practice.
When I first read Adi Da’s teachings – that the “I” is the body – it sounded to me like some sort of materialism. Right? Because after all, if there is no “ghost in the machine,” no precious “me-essence” floating around inside my cranium, if there really is just this fleshy biological organism and that’s all “I” am – or is – doesn’t that sound like mechanistic reductionism?
Except it’s super not. Because – remember – all there is, according to Adi Da, is the one Sea of Conscious Light. There are no separate I’s, me’s, or you’s, no separate souls, no separate anythings, in it. That’s just smoke and mirrors. A trick of the Light. Yes, we each have a deeper, causal personality that reincarnates from life to life, and people have called that a soul. But it, too (like the body, the world, the cosmos) is only an “apparent modification” of the one infinite God Force. The upshot: the conventional “I” is only the body, but this I-body-organism arises in the Sea of Radiant Love and Being…and that is our only True Identity. And, if you know that your body is only a modification of the God Light, what could be wrong with it?
“There is nothing wrong with the human body, with its genitals and hairs and talking and eyeballness and rotting fleshiness—not even the slightest thing wrong with it!”
And when you’ve awakened to that True Identity – heck, when you’re even just beginning to awaken to that as your True Identity – how or why on earth would you seek to dissociate from the body or anxiously recoil from its organic life? If you are what the Buddha called the Unborn – the deathless condition – if that is self-evident to you, then you can afford to be juicy, un-withheld, radiantly alive as the physical body, abandoned into life. You can afford to allow the Shakti to suffuse the bodily being – while it lives – with life force and Spirit Force.
“Even your body must be given over to this Freedom, this Glorious Happiness, so that your human relations become possible, so that your organic life—your human cellular form, this absurdity, this limited life such as it is—lives in the Great One and is animated by the Great One.”
“What is greater, the mind that separates itself in order to know and control the things of fear, or the body that is already one with the fearless Spirit-Breath of Truth? What is greater, the thought that ‘I know’?—or the body that surrenders in love? Therefore, any one who surrenders the self bodily to the Spirit-Breath of life also, by that totality of gift, surrenders the mind, and the feeling heart, and the every breath. Any one who transcends all knowledge in the Spirit-Breath of love has truly learned all there is to learn as a human being.”
—Adi Da Samraj, My ‘Bright’ Sight
Stuff to do
1) Allow your spiritual practice to be expressed through your body. If your practice is about communion with the Infinite Life, and the magnification of that radiant Happiness, why wouldn’t you live that practice in and through your body, too? Adi Da used to speak often about whole bodily devotion, whole bodily communion, and so forth. So whatever your practice is—mindfulness, contemplative prayer, Zen, mantra, self-enquiry—notice if it is informing and affecting your whole body, if you are expressing it through your fleshy cellular being. Hold this as a question and an intention.
2) Radiate and feel from the heart boundlessly in all directions to infinity. This, Adi Da says, is the native disposition of the uncontracted human body-mind. It’s our natural state. So practice it, throughout the day, as many times as you can remember to do it.
3) Relax the body. The chronically tensed body is, plainly, a body that is not surrendered, not trusting the heart of Being. It is the result of a separated mind trying to be in control. So practice relaxing (one of these days I’ll do a whole post on this!).
“To relax is, of course, the first thing a dancer has to learn. It is also the first thing a patient has to learn when he confronts the analyst. It is the first thing any one has to learn in order to live. It is extremely difficult, because it means surrender, full surrender.”
5) Here are a bunch of cool quotes and excerpts (from the early Adi Da book, Conscious Exercise and the Transcendental Sun) on ways to work with the body. I made a recording of them and I sometimes listen to it when I walk around the lake. Highly recommended! You could also write one or two of them on a 3 X 5 card and just re-read it several times a day.
Relax and open into the flow and condition of energy with the whole physical body, through conscious moving.
Open the body, unclench the body, allow it to breathe and to move and rest with ease.
Feel [the body] as a whole and allow it to rest in its natural state, released and vulnerable in its natural relations.
Allow the body to receive, pervade and be pervaded by the flow of energy that is always there, always available to it.
Free the attention and allow the mind to be released from random thought or subjective obsession and make it usable as direct awareness and intention, active through feeling.
Allow and intend the mind to feel and follow the body and breath, easily but intensely, as an act of free attention, observation and responsibility.
Relax the thinking process, which is a form of contracted concentration, and feel with the whole body being.
You’ll notice that your interest is always wandering into matters of chronic anxiety and concern. Simply but firmly return attention to the rhythm of the breathing and the bodily moving.
Feel with the heart in all directions to infinity.
Always proceed with the sense of the body’s deepening relaxation and release into the all-pervading vibrant field of manifest energy.
With the breath release all negative, tense, contracted, obstructed and sluggish conditions, of body, emotion, and mind. And with the breath, receive the enlivening, healing, transforming, fluid, and intensifying force of life itself in all dimensions of your being. Do this with conscious attention and deep feeling.
With full observation and feeling in every part of the body and mind, feel that you are releasing all thought, all accumulated tension and negative emotional conditions and all toxic substances as you exhale.
Exhale fully, but naturally and easily, with a feeling of elimination from every part and every cell.
Feel that you are perpetually letting go of every kind of obstruction, and that you are always opening to and receiving infinite, pervasive, and blissful energy.
When you inhale, do so consciously, with whole-body feeling and fully, and allow the universal energy to infill and permeate every function and every cell of your being.
Allow the life-energy, which is cycled by this process of reception and release, to permeate and pervade not only the whole body, but all arising phenomena, all space. Feel that the force of life spreads through and fills the universe beyond all that you see and seem to know.
Simply radiate this happiness, or fullness of life, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
And here’s a much longer chunk from the same book, but it makes me intoxicated every time I read it or listen to it, so I’m including it for you!
“Rest-abide as whole-bodily attention, not waiting within for changes, but in love. Radiate as whole-body Happiness. Be Happy as the body altogether. Radiate the whole body. Feel Radiance as the whole body, full of pleasure, in the feet and head, the eyes, all organs, the abdomen and sex organs. Be constantly aware of the Real Presence, and be submitted into it with every part of every breath. The feeling of bodily aliveness should be constant, under all conditions. The feeling of the strength of Life should always be in the navel.
“Negativity and dilemma or doubt discharge the in-filled power of the body-being and weaken it. The head should perpetually feel. The mind is the feeling of Radiant Love, the Bright. Always feel as Radiance only, with and as the head, as the whole body. The physical body is always already full, fully permeated by all-pervading energy, or Life Force. It never becomes empty or filled, but it is only either more or less directly and presently in a condition of communication or Communion with the Universal Life.
“When we breathe, we should breathe with the sense that the whole body rests or abides, always and already, in the Universal, All-Pervading, Life Field. Thus the vital center and the head are both, equally and always in perfect and constant contact with the Light of Life. When the cycle of breathing is generated, it should not be felt that Life only enters the nose, and then goes down to the vital center, but that the whole body breathes or Communes with the Universal Life.
“On inhalation, the breathe or Life is to be felt as if drawn or intensified via the whole surface of the body. Secondarily, it also tends to be felt as if passing down through the nose, to the vital center. Likewise, on exhalation, the breath or Life is to be felt as if expanding, as intensity, throughout the whole body, and through the whole surface of the body to Infinity. We mus abide constantly in the sense that the whole body, from the feeling heart, from and to and through the whole surface or skin of the body, and via the vital center, is always already existing in an all-pervading, unqualified, and universal field of energy, Life, or Light. You must be fully present in the etheric dimension, so that your etheric body is strong, and full of Life pleasure, and so that your psyche will flower”
Lastly, my shameless requests for you to do more stuff!
* Know someone with a physical body? Maybe you should send them a link to this groovy post! Their toes will thank you! So will mine!
* Could your body want to subscribe to Spirit Mojo? It just might! I’ll give you a moment to ask it. Subscribing does a body good. Click the handy button on the top right of the page.
* What role does your body play—or not play—in your spiritual practice? Do you wear hair-shirts? Maybe yoga IS your practice? Let me know in the comments!