085. Adyashanti

Adyashanti“Adyashanti” means primordial peace. Adyashanti dares all seekers of peace and freedom to take the possibility of liberation in this life seriously. He began teaching in 1996, at the request of his Zen teacher with whom he had been studying for 14 years. Since then many spiritual seekers have awakened to their true nature while spending time with Adyashanti.

AdyashantiAdyashanti offers spontaneous and direct nondual teachings that have been compared to those of the early Zen masters and Advaita Vedanta sages. However, Adya says, “If you filter my words through any tradition or ‘-ism’, you will miss altogether what I am saying. The liberating truth is not static; it is alive. It cannot be put into concepts and be understood by the mind. The truth lies beyond all forms of conceptual fundamentalism. What you are is the beyond—awake and present, here and now already. I am simply helping you to realize that.”

A native of Northern California, Adyashanti lives with his wife, Mukti, and teaches extensively in the San Francisco Bay Area offering satsangs, weekend intensives, and silent retreats. He also travels to teach in other areas of the United States and Canada.

Books and other media:

Interview transcript

Interview recorded 8/30/2011

Video and audio below. I’m sorry about the video quality. We had technical problems which we weren’t able to surmount. Audio also available as a Podcast.

58 thoughts on “085. Adyashanti

  1. Hey it´s Helen again finding herself sosoo interested in topics of enlightenment— as an onlooker from afar hoping to find something familiar, just for enjoyment. There was some!
    Thank you first of all for providing the possibility of it.
    OK, so i came up with some more items on the “list of things that might fall away after awakening”:
    – comparing to other´s adventures
    – the subtly asking… “Am i okay?”
    -the physical body
    Aloha to all!

  2. I love how Adyashanti stresses practicality.

    Are you able to apply and get whatever teaching or strategy to work for you?

    ….and love his description of liberation:
    Are you still in conflict?
    Do you experience emotional and/or psychological conflict?
    Liberation is dissapearance of conflict.
    No arguement with self, god, the world, and/or death.

  3. When “me” is absent, my teacher’s presence is
    “I”. And Adya/Presence entices the absence of “me” 🙂

    Unending gratitude for the “accident” of finding Adya!

  4. What a great conversation!

    I was particularly interested in the section around “The dirty little Secret” [1.2 mark] where there is a conversation around the erosion and disappearance of personal will…

    This really speaks to me as a marker in my own life and I’m curious if others have/are navigated/navigating around this?

    Any more thoughts you would add Rick around this section – post Adya conversation wise?

  5. For me it is a matter of feeling totally ok and spontaneous with what life is throwing at me. I was lucky in that letting go of desires for certain out comes was very easy. It first manifested it self as noticing I was comfortable with both sides of any opinion and also being ok with how I reacted. As Adya says, you notice what drops away. This can’t be a contrived activity of the mind. The mind set or reaction is just not working any more. The knower, (THAT) is non-reactive and unconditional. Those qualities are expressed more and more as the dropping away of the usual mental and physical reactions to life. As the sense of any personal doership (ego) lessens a sense of free will lessens also. We become spontaneous and easy with what unfolds.

  6. joel your lucky indeed – having explored and disected my life
    for many years / i was young and ignorance .
    i can attest that it doesnt work for many as easy as that-
    i might also add i dont see anything new in adyshanti at
    all. it seems that he is talking about himself and how
    he made it and urging others while he took many years
    to get there; cool.
    I find Joan Toff more clear and to the point at least
    she clears out what nonduality means more punctual
    than many others.

  7. Joel,

    I feel you on the free will thing, my brother.

    I’ve watched every interview on this site, and at least half mention the falling away of the sense of free will, in one way or another.

    I’ve experienced that myself.

    Interestingly, the cutting edge of cognitive psychology has also arrived at the feeling there is no free will. Stephen Pinker of Harvard can’t find free will anywhere in the brain, and does not believe it exists.

  8. In response to Michael, I went through a phase many years ago (and I think there are still remnants of it) where, if I exerted individual will, I felt like I was interfering with “cosmic” will (for lack of a better term), but if I relaxed individual will to give cosmic will free reign, I became too passive. These days I think the two are better integrated. I can be highly motivated and yet feel that my actions are guided almost entirely by a much larger intelligence. It’s therefore possible to accomplish a lot more with little effort or friction. I hope that speaks to the point you raised.

  9. thanx all for your replies, I will continue to digest your points. Perhaps Rick, you could add it to your “favorite” questions to ask, especially of the “non duality” speakers: How did they continue living life, without their “quarter back” in the front seat? I’m hopeing to bump into some more of Adya’s work that speaks directly to this “phase” as it sounded like he had alot to say about it…

    Thanks again

    : )

  10. Adya gave a talk on radio adyashanti earlier this year where he compared the “Dark Night’ with different stages of failure of personal will:
    The talk is titled: The Power of the Dark Night,Feb 9, 2011
    available for $10 on his cafe dharma webpage:

    I’ve just started watching this DVD video from 2007 in which one part covers ‘Dissolving of personal will’ is titled: The Journey After Awakening
    An In-Depth Conversation with Adyashanti and Loch Kelly
    link on Adyashanti’s webpage:

    example of some other topics covered:
    Hiding in transcendence, Living in the world – not in a monastery, Partial awakening, The undefended heart

    It’s full of ‘Spiritual straight talk’ as Adyashanti calls it…

  11. A stagecoach driver once pondered:

    is there any difference between believing

    1) I am directing my horses via the reigns
    that I grasp, and…

    2) my horses are directing me by having no grasp
    of the reigns?

    And is being controlled
    no different an illusion
    than the exertion of control?

  12. I think that the concept of “no free will” is a very valuable doorway to discover the nondual state. As many other advaita concepts do, it has a potential to short circuit the thinking process – to make you see that you are free from thinking. It does not matter whether you accept the concept on blind faith, logical arguments or authority of a Guru, as long as it works for you. Basically thinking about all this paradoxical advaita stuff can make your mind frustrated to a point where you realize that your thinking/feeling has no actual impact on you. You may find yourself beyond it, free from what the monkey mind throws at you… You end up looking at a confused bundle of thoughts and feelings, completely detached from it, letting it play out and liberate itself into thin air.

  13. Although all these discussions and opinions are interesting and enjoyable we continue to ignore nearly every speaker on BATGP.
    They simply say relax into it rather than frazzling our minds with intellectual gymnastics.

  14. Yeah, but for most people “relax into it” probably sounds like “have a beer & take a nap” 🙂

  15. Brian is correct. The frustrated mind will one day stop all the obsessive noise and the silent stillness of consciousness will become a predominate experience, the screen on which the movie of life unfolds. It is a totally spontaneous event.

    The next step and it is again totally spontaneous, is to realize that we have always been the unconditional knowing of both the screen and what is projected on it. This knowing that we are is not the wave or the ocean, it is the untouched THAT. And we are THAT. It is not the sense of I am. It is beyond all experience, before consciousness, before mind/body. It is what has been pointed to over the ages by all the teachers and concepts. But it is not those concepts at all.

    As long as a sense of separation, of a personal I is felt, there is a doer. Apparent choices are being made and action is being done in the world. When the sense of a personal I can’t be found, there is a freedom to rest as the unconditional, non-reactive knowing while life unfolds spontaneously. The path falls away. the seeker falls away. The concept of free will falls away. It’s all going on by it self.

  16. It has no purpose. The sense of separation is a human insanity caused by the current social and economic structure we live in.

  17. From what I remember, Adyashanti is talking about the failure of “PERSONAL WILL”, but not pointing out details of reality or illusion of ‘free will’ or loss of individual motivational will power.

    Free will and motivation are useful things to talk about.

    However.. failure of personal will, is not talked about much and rarely addressed by other teachers.

    It’s a point when there is a recognition of total failure. I can’t do it. I’ve failed. It’s impossible. I give up, I’m totally exhausted.

    It’s most likely not a positive emotional experience. It’s not just a mental understanding of loss of control. It doesn’t have a feeling of accomplishment or attainment getting to whatever your ‘expectation’ of non-dual state.

    While it’s nice to speculate about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, after some attainment. It can be quite dangerous and misleading. You think you’re helping, but you’re only setting yourself up for more suffering and bigger failures.

  18. “Not sure what in life could be without purpose?”

    Explain the purpose of countless wars, holocausts, 9/11… The list goes on and on… Karma is a bitch.

  19. I would really love to see these discussions come from a experiential knowing rather then the intellectual mind games that some want to play. That useless stuff only adds to confusion. “It seems to who” comes from the neo-adviata mind games that are part of the human insanity. Totally unproductive.

  20. Hey, Joel.

    What verbal or written expression isn’t a mind game?

    I’m inclined to perceive that they all are.

    We may prefer to dine on some versus others, of course.

    But aren’t they all of the same essence?

  21. Thank you, snowleopard.

    About a month ago, I was strongly desiring attending a Vipassana meditation retreat. But I couldn’t break away from my duties at home to gift myself with that treat.

    Until, that is, I was doing some lawn work, slipped and fell, and fractured my femur in two places.

    Needless to say, my Vipassana retreat came in the form of a few weeks at a local rehab hospital.

    With the silver lining that a few other patients wanted to learn how to meditate as well.

    Sweet! Very sweet indeed. 🙂

  22. One experience I had within the last year has to do with giving up.

    Over the last couple of years, in the difficult economy, I made many many many…. countless… efforts to work more and more, harder and harder, making lists and lists of things to do with my business.

    Finally, sometime in the cold dark of last winter, I simply gave up. Gave up striving. Gave up determination. Gave up redoubling “effort”. Gave up banging my head against the wall.

    And what happened was……no change. I did exactly as much – or as little – work after giving up completely, as I did during the couple of years of mentally whipping myself and striving for more and more action.

    And I realized all of that mental whipping was entirely an action of the mind. It had no impact on what I actually did.

    And so I have arrived at the belief and experience that life just happens, regardless of what story we end up telling ourselves about what’s happening.

  23. “would you now tell others not to bother striving?”

    Not being Tim nor do I play him on TV, this question, nonetheless, piques me. If I may.

    Striving and surrender aren’t necessarily the only (and similarly polar opposite) choices.

    You may effort and strive without being ATTACHED to a particularly desirable outcome or end product.

    Which is what equanimity is all about. The most enlightening of all human characteristics.

    Striving rarely entrapped me. My attachment to the objective(s) of my striving, however, often did.

  24. Thank you Valentino for your specific comments/references, I will check these out!

    I also wanted to acknowledge/bring attention to what Joel so eloquently/wisely expressed…

    “…As long as a sense of separation, of a personal I is felt, there is a doer. Apparent choices are being made and action is being done in the world. When the sense of a personal I can’t be found, there is a freedom to rest as the unconditional, non-reactive knowing while life unfolds spontaneously. The path falls away. The seeker falls away. The concept of free will falls away. It’s all going on by it self.”

    Brilliant Joel ~ thank you!

    In consideration of the section I was referring to [around 1.2] on

    “…the erosion and disappearance of personal will” Spiritual shipwrecks… limbo zones… dirty little secret of spirituality… dropping out…”

    I can see how easily it is to fall back into, or be seduced by yet another conceptual trap of looking for/finding some strategy [purpose, dharma, cause, calling] that is often earmarked, wrapped, and sanctified by the cloth of so-called spirituality.

    How ironic the so-called seeking/path, has brought one to a precipice of a spontaneous, personal extinction, and yet, there lies the seduction and temptation to be caught up in another story of becoming…

    And, to bring in Joel’s commentary, I would also add a caveat: while there is documentation that on occasion the “I” has ,appeared to drop away spontaneously/cleanly/completely, for many/most, there appears to be a period/phase of “perceived greater suffering”, where the personal I does not instantaneously vaporize, but instead appears to evaporate – slowly and apparently, somewhat painfully : )

  25. To answer your most recent question, snowleopard, I am of the opinion that everyone is exactly where they need to be, at the moment that they are there.

    Doing whatever it is that they are doing… thinking whatever it is that they are thinking… feeling whatever it is that they are feeling.

    If some one finds himself being attached to a desired outcome, which fuels his efforts towards that outcome, he is exactly where he needs to be. Until he places his feet on another path, of course, if that should come about.

    The perfection of imperfection… gives many moments to be at awe with that truth.

  26. “Maybe some lucky souls do actually get to bypass the lifetimes of struggling and hard-earned lessons.”

    No, it just appears so because this may be their last lifetime. I’m sure they had to undergo very hard spiritual practices for many thousands of past lifetimes to get on such a level and only now they see fruits of their actions…

  27. I wouldn’t know what to tell others. Other than to borrow a favorite phrase from Ram Dass, ‘be gentle with yourself’.

    As several of the interviewees on this site have observed, thought doesn’t cause action. Action happens and then thought is the mind quickly creating a story explaining what happened. That’s how I see.

    My mind happened to be telling me a story about a need to work harder, work smarter, strive more, be more disciplined, fight, struggle.

    And then one day the story became, I give up. I wave the white flag.

    And though the story changed radically, to my surprise the quantity and quality of work didn’t change.

    And so I learned I was going to do whatever I was going to do, independent of what the story about that doing was.

    Which is what you’d expect if thought trails action. But not what you’d expect if thought determines action.

    All that changed was I felt a helluva lot better.

    This is also what you’d expect to find when: “The path falls away. The seeker falls away. The concept of free will falls away. It’s all going on by it self.”

  28. I am perfectly acting out a script of imperfection.

    Coincidentally, so is everyone else.

    Which gives me great reason to accolade everyone for…

    the perfection of their imperfect craft.

  29. It is hard to see the logic in stating/believing the insanity of the majority of humans on the planet serves any purpose. The misconceptions of a personal “i” and of free will is taught to us by the insane people we grow up around. We are not born with this misconception. That’s like saying hitting your self in the head with a base ball bat has a purpose because when you stop the pain goes away. Please!

  30. The ocean expressing itself as waves.

    Insanity or an incomprehensible (to us waves) intelligence?

    I’m inclined to intuit the latter.

  31. I don’t know guys. Being an Italian American I tend towards a glass half empty personality who only sees creation as a random jumble of energy. The best I van do is watch in wonderment.

  32. snowleopard, did you come up with this “purpose” thing on your own or where did you get it? I think Christians also say that God has a purpose for everyone too…

  33. Seems to me it’s built into the way the universe functions. Without a sense of separation, how could there be a universe? God has to apparently fragment Himself to create all this.

  34. “Recently, I read about some spider in South America that saves bits and pieces from the corpses of its prey, and then rearranges them into a clever facsimile of itself to fool predators. How’s that for ‘crazy’ behaviour?!!”

    If this interests you, then you should read some Richard Dawkins. It’s all elegantly explained by natural selection. What is truly crazy is the process itself. There are many random mutations and those favorable for survival are carried on by surviving animals. The days when we needed God or Purpose to explain these things are over, thank Lord…

  35. “It makes as good a creation story, or theory, as any other.”

    Sorry, but the scientific evidence for the theory of evolution makes your statement look foolish in my eyes.

  36. Beliefs? I’m afraid it’s a bit more complicated than that. I suggest you look up the term “scientific theory” instead. 🙂

  37. Even if natural selection and random mutation govern the evolutionary process, who or what governs those principles? As I see it, every particle and process of creation is brimming with intelligence.

  38. Yes, by the word “intelligence” you have solved it all. And what governs the principle of intelligence? I think that it is “love”. And what governs the principle of love? I think that it is “emptiness”…

  39. We’re definitely on theoretical territory here. Perhaps at the level we’re alluding to, all those words are synonymous. I’m just sayin’, that to my eye, creation at whatever level you observe it, is a play and display of what I can best describe as all-pervading intelligence.

  40. So what is your motivation? Why would you describe the creation as a play of intelligence? Does it make it more colorful for you, or less gray? Why isn’t it enough to witness without descriptions or interpretations? Or do you think that these interpretations are already included in the package?

  41. I’m not sure that I have a motivation. Must I have one? I’m just saying that’s the way my senses, heart, and intellect apprehend creation. It strikes me in every way as a marvelous dance of creative intelligence.

  42. I enjoy conversation, reading, words in general, more than most.

    Yet I never lose sight of the impossibility of comprehending it all. Or comprehending any of it, really.

    Even our science tells us we don’t see the world. Our brain creates a world based on stimuli. The brain of a bat creates a different world altogether. The brain of an elephant something different again. And before there were brains?

    My favorite Shakespeare line: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

  43. Of course, the scientific method is not absolutely perfect, but still: we do not have anything better.

  44. I think that subjective technologies can be used in accordance with the scientific method. For instance, a systematic technique of meditation can be considered an investigative methodology, one’s nervous system a scientific instrument, experience substantiates theory, the “experiment” is repeatable, etc. In this way, all sorts of things that mainstream science considers outside its purview can be brought within it.

  45. I F*#(ing love Adya. Finally got around to watching this Rick, and very glad I did. I’m happy that he exists. He says what I want to be said, more thoroughly and clearly than I probably would. And he is perhaps the ONLY person I’ve come across who talks about the evolution past awakening in a clear and non dogmatic way. Him talking about individual will vs. universal will and the state of being a spiritual drop-out is exactly relevant to what’s going on with me right now. God bless you Adya. And rock on Rick, for making that happen.

  46. Is this Isaac Nevas? If so, everyone give Isaac a hearty slap on the back. He’s the one who came up with the name “Buddha at the Gas Pump”.

  47. Predominantly, I feel appreciation and gratitude toward him. His impact on my life was inestimable. I’m well aware of the paradoxical stuff (women, money, apparent ego aggrandisement), but let any of us take on a task as large as he did and see if we do as well. He swung for the fences and despite some strike-outs, he hit plenty out of the park.

  48. I also find Adya fits me like a glove.
    He doesn’t provoke me (as yet) to the cutting edge of Noticing what is here – to the Self-Inclusive Unified view before any seduction with a split minded perception.

    But he would have done some years back. And may do in the next few moments.

    So I listen, smiling in the heart.
    I feel an enjoyment of sharing as friends, something of what we have come to share in, as an inheritance of teaching through which Love’s meaning and the truth of loving, rises as fresh cultural reference. The Source of all value is undefinable – but ‘working mind’ uses its own contents to either play in the dream of self creation or serve awakening from the dream of self creation.

    Hey – I was just flowing with a feeling of connecting.
    This is a lovely resource that presents and connects to a lovely resource.
    Awakening Purpose is a Movement of Wholeness that feels like something definite and brings us into relationship from a different premise than thought-based identities.
    And whose purpose is not fitted to support or fulfil the mind that thinks it knows … but IS inherently fulfilling to the Feeling of Be-ing.

    Releasing the personal will is the story reflected in Jesus’ story.
    Rather than work on ourselves (‘doing something’) we can let into real relationship as we Notice what we are already doing which blocks relationship – (And cease or desist). Without real relationship, we simply run like a program that engages attention and meets an unconscious desire to be deceived.

    Awakening to the mechanism of mind is as much part of awakening as awakening in Love’s Intimacy – as Expression.

    in Gratitude


  49. Thanks, Rick. Loved the interview. You drew out a number of key points and articulated why Adya’s been valuable to many on their path. I could point to a number of things, but I quite enjoyed the “dirty secret” of the loss of personal will. The detachment of that phase can also contribute to the sense of it being desert-like. I know some who’s lives did indeed fall apart, not to mention the karma he spoke of. I think in End of Your World he described how there is now this open space, so everything unresolved rushes in for resolution. (laughs)

    It’s a good point that having commitments to others can be helpful during this phase. Routine and structure.

    I also quite like his “head, heart & gut” approach as it beautifully describes the experiential process we might know as CC, GC, UC intellectually. Releasing the grip in the gut, what Loch Kelly called the BBQ, ends the separation between “inside” and “outside” and is thus the kindergarten of unity. I’d add that this “decent” continues to the 2nd and root as Self/Divine/Tao moves out into the world (experientially) and into what might be called embodiment.

    Thanks again

  50. I greatly enjoyed this interview insightful and poignant. I had recently done a free down load of one his books (see his site for the offer) which had impressed me greatly so I checked to see if Rick had interviewed him, As usual a masterful interview Rick. I do wonder what motivated him to change his name from Steven Gray, a name I prefer, is it a black and white issue?

  51. Hi David
    People in a lineage are named by their teachers. He uses his spiritual name for his work but I well imagine his legal name remains the same. That’s typical.

    ie: He didn’t change his name.

  52. You’re welcome. You can think of the name as an honorific, like Sir, rather than like a stage name. In Buddhist, Vedic and First Nations traditions, names are given to emphasize their quality. Adyashanti means primordial peace.

  53. Rick, you have my deepest gratitude for this interview. It’s all now starting to “make sense”. I watched and enjoyed this talk when you first published it. A couple of years later and now I understand what’s been going on here for the last couple of years.

    This realization kinda’ crept up on me. A couple of years ago this body came down with several mysterious illnesses . Much like Adya experienced when he tried riding his bike again.

    Except this didn’t last 6 months. It’s been over 2 years and dozens of doctors and therapists. My marriage has fallen on very rocky ground. My income has dried up (this after a successful career of 30 years). All of the passion and hobbies vaporized.

    It’s only lately something pointed me to books and videos I once read or watched that are beginning to give enough understanding here to know what needs to be done. This interview with Adya was one “aha” moment after another. “The End of Your World” is this life.

    Thank you again for what you do Rick, and Adya for your incite and teaching. You both have my deepest appreciation and gratitude.


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