Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done about 425 of them now. If this is new to you, and you’d like to check out previous ones, go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. If you appreciate it and feel like supporting it, even to a modest degree, that’s very much appreciated and necessary. There’s a PayPal button on every page of the site through which you can do that.
My guest today is Amoda Maa. Amoda was on BatGap quite a few years ago and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well since then. We both go to the SAND Conference every year, where we both were a couple of weeks ago. Amoda is a contemporary spiritual teacher, author, and speaker. After years of spiritual seeking meditation and immersion in psycho-spiritual practices, an experience of the dark night of the soul led her to a profound inner awakening. Then, after a long period of integration, she began speaking from silence in small gatherings. Today, she offers meetings and retreats and is a frequent speaker at conferences and events, attracting spiritual seekers and people looking for peace and fulfillment in an increasingly chaotic world. Her teachings are free of religion and tradition and she brings to them a deep understanding of the human journey born out of her own experience. She’s the author of Radical Awakening, originally released as How to Find God in Everything, and Change Your Life, Change Your World. Both books were written shortly after her awakening, and before she began to speak in public. Her new book, Embodied Enlightenment, which I have here, was written 15 years after her awakening, and it’s based upon the many conversations at the cutting edge of spiritual inquiry in her meetings with people from all around the world. It addresses many of the questions relevant to today’s seeker. It has been acclaimed as a beautiful and precious gift to an emerging new humanity. Amoda lives in California now and although she’s originally from the UK, she lives just north of San Francisco with her husband Kavi. Welcome, Amoda.
Amoda Maa: Hi, Rick.
Rick Archer: Good to have you back.
Amoda Maa: Yes.
Rick Archer: I listened to quite a few things, all the videos that are on your website. I also listened to our previous interview and at the beginning of that, I praised you quite a bit and said how much I enjoyed listening to the interview. I’m going to do that again, just to see if I can make you blush.
I really enjoyed your book. I read a different spiritual book every week and I read this one cover to cover, just finished it last night. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s beautifully written and I think there’s a lot of wisdom packed into it. Every now and then I come across some point where I thought “Eh, I think I’ll argue with her about that one,” and I don’t even remember what those points were. For the most part, I just really concur with your perspective. I think it reflects a great deal of spiritual maturity. Not that I claim to have that, but I can recognize it in others perhaps.
I took about six pages of notes, mostly copying and pasting as I was listening to your interview and we’re going to go through some of that stuff. Obviously, we will deviate from notes whenever we feel like it and people can send in questions if they want during this interview. So far, there are about 90 or 80 people online. Do you have your notes in front of me that I sent you, the ones I took?
Amoda Maa: I have them on my computer.
Rick Archer: On the computer. Like if you go there, the first quote. I think I’ll have you read this rather than me reading it.
Amoda Maa: Okay.
Rick Archer: You have that open?
Amoda Maa: Let me find it.
Rick Archer: Okay, give you a second.
Amoda Maa: Okay.
Rick Archer: Okay, the first paragraph where it says “Sometimes the sea is stormy?” Why don’t you read that paragraph for us?
Amoda Maa: “Sometimes the sea is stormy, but mostly it is as calm as the millpond. Sometimes there is pain, hardship, and unpleasant feelings, but with much less frequency and ferocity than ever before. Somehow nothing sticks. Pain and discomfort don’t last very long. I now have an exquisite sensitivity to every nuance of life’s movement and yet nothing interrupts the pristine silence at the core of it all. The radiant jewel that is this silence continues to illuminate the places in my body and mind that are still holding ancient patterns that do not serve the bigger picture of love. It’s an ongoing demolition project in which everything that is not true is destroyed and it becomes more subtle as time goes on.”
Rick Archer: Nice. I like that. The reason I like that? Well, it’s nicely descriptive of your current experience and nicely written, but it also brings in a point that we might start discussing right away, which is, exactly what awakening is and what it’s like to live an awakened life. Many people refer to it with this kind of static, somewhat superlative connotation. You hear them, “Oh, I had my awakening at such and such a time” or “When I awakened, this and that.” I always feel a little uncomfortable with that because I feel that although there may be significant milestones and watershed moments, it’s an ongoing process. I wonder when they say something like that, which awakening are you talking about? Would you care to elaborate on how you define the term and what awakening was like for you, because you do refer to awakening having taken place 15 years ago, but you also refer to this as an ever-evolving process?
Amoda Maa: Okay, so there’s quite a lot in that that we can unpack.
Rick Archer: Yes. Well, you can talk as much as you like.
Amoda Maa: I can also say that before 15 years ago, there were awakenings.
Rick Archer: Okay.
Amoda Maa: When I look back on that, there were definitely experiences of awakening. Now, I don’t particularly want to focus on that, but that was just in response to what you said that, yes, which awakening are we talking about? The awakening that I speak of 15 years ago, in my experience was, I’m hesitant to say final, but what seems to be the final undoing of the core sense of separation. The ongoingness of it is what I call the maturation that has happened since then. We can say a lot about that, I guess. As I meet more and more people, and have done, over the years and also since the book was written, we’re talking about what I speak of in this book, which was only published a few months ago, but actually it was written two years ago. Even since then, I’ve spoken with a lot more people, especially on this side of the ocean, where there are many more longtime seekers and I really see that this whole process of maturation is something that isn’t spoken of much and it certainly isn’t understood very much.
The maturation is the ever-deepening and ever-unfolding of that dissolving of inner division. Certainly from my experience, it just becomes more and more ordinary. I’ve actually come to a place where awakeness, awakened consciousness, the awake state, is no longer a state but just a very ordinary, everyday reality. I’ve come to see it as the natural state of the human experience. There is nothing elevated about it. There’s nothing special about it. There’s nothing that is in opposition to the human experience. It’s so ordinary that I’ve actually forgotten what it was like before. Yet having said that, it’s radically different. It’s absolute clarity, clarity of seeing when nothing is hidden, nothing is avoided. The maturation is what happens when we have the willingness to be so open and vulnerable in the face of our experience, which continues to unfold, so that all sense of division in which there’s a rejection or a denial of any part of our experience, which does get ever and ever more subtle, is really surrendered. That requires quite a lot of grace, quite a lot of humility, and also the allowing of time. It’s like we think perhaps that awakening is a timeless zone, but time continues as part of our human experience. Time is what many seekers do not allow to unfold. There’s a kind of jumping on to an awakened experience: “Now I’ve awakened,” and that causes all sorts of problems.
Rick Archer: It does. Yes. Let me respond to a few of those points, and you can bounce it back again. My former teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to often say that enlightenment or the awakened state is normal human life because you’re talking about the normalcy of it. He said, but if we’re going to say that, then we kind of have to refer to the way most people live as subnormal or abnormal. They’re not really living to their full potential. He said, as sublime as it may be, it really is not extraordinary, or flashy or unusual, or anything like that. It’s just the way the human nervous system was ideally designed to function. Okay, so there’s that. Do you want to respond to that bit before I go on?
Amoda Maa: Yes, yes. I agree with that. It’s the natural state of the nervous system before it’s become encrusted with reactivity with the inflamed response to our experience. In that sense, it is not normal because the majority of humanity lives in a neurologically or physiologically inflamed reactivity towards reality and with that comes psychological self-protection when it’s not necessary, hardness, rejection, denial, judgments, all the divided states.
Rick Archer: Suicide bombings and the whole gamut.
Amoda Maa: Yes. I mean, we can go to the extreme. In that sense, it’s not normal yet, but it is absolutely natural. It’s what happens when the nervous system relaxes and we move from that nonreactivity, which may include, as part of the human response, some degree of reactivity, but it’s very quickly dissolved.
Rick Archer: Yes. Okay, you hear some teachers say, sometimes, or other people say that you can be awakened and yet be an alcoholic or be a rageaholic, or something like that. To me, that’s a cheapening or a dumbing down of the vision of possibilities. Certainly, there can be some degree of awakening or something, but if a person is behaving in those kinds of ways, then they probably haven’t really worked through the other stuff. You said in response to my first question, that there’s a lot of unmet or unprocessed conditioning, or impressions that, by my definition, really need to be worked out before we are entitled to use the term enlightened or even awakened.
Amoda Maa: Yes. I think that’s what I’m calling the maturation process. It’s not that we have to become perfect in our outer behavior. It doesn’t live up to some kind of ideal of what an enlightened life looks like or an enlightened person looks like.
Rick Archer: Where do you draw the line?
Amoda Maa: Yes. In some sense, there is a danger of looking at awakened teachers or people or whatever and saying, “Oh, that’s what it looks like,” and kind of modifying one’s own response, even after awakening to match that, and that creates a whole host of problems, confusion, and pretenses.
Rick Archer: A lot of confusion. Yes, it does.
Amoda Maa: There’s a falsity in that. It is about when the giving of allegiance to the seeking mechanism turns from that to something that is, what I would call, the openness of love. Then that seeking mechanism, which ends up as addictions or behaviors, or responses that are out of alignment with the openness of love, start to fall away and we start to be informed by a much deeper intelligence. The intelligence of love. The intelligence of openness. That starts to change some of our responses to life, quite naturally. That’s the part I think that gets missed out, the ongoingness of it, because after awakening, a certain personality, energies, or imprints, don’t fall away. If something in that response is out of alignment with the openness of being vigilant, and in some ways more courageous. It’s like forging the sword on the anvil of life itself.
Rick Archer: Yes, you said an interesting thing a minute ago. I said where do you draw the line? People might be wondering, who’s to decide what behavior is perhaps just natural human tendencies, which are going to remain after awakening, or which types of behaviors or tendencies really should be expected to be dissolved as awakening matures? You said a key point there, which is something like being aligned with nature’s intelligence or something? Is that the way you put it?
Amoda Maa: Yes. I think that’s a very difficult thing to quantify from the outside. There is no description or picture that will say, this is how it is. It’s a very internal sense of integrity. That’s why it gets tricky. It’s a very internal integrity towards what is really true and whether the behavior, the response, the reaction that we’ve seen as an external expression has to do with the need to get anything from the experience in order to uphold some part of the self as special, more loved, or more worthy, or whether it’s just a simple, natural expression.
Rick Archer: Yes. I think that phrase, “the need to get anything” is crucial because I’ve been reading a book about these crazy wisdom people throughout history and generally you find them to be not trying to draw attention to themselves. They might do outlandish things, but they generally want people to stay away from them. They’ll sit on dung heaps and throw stones at people or whatever, just to be left alone. Whereas a lot of times, some of these people who have become quite prominent seem to be into self-aggrandizement. Whatever their inner motivation may be, I don’t know, but there’s a lot of folderol and fuss around them and a lot of, often, hedonism even, indulgence in things, which seems kind of needy to me. It doesn’t seem like someone who has really been cleared of all such individuating tendencies.
Amoda Maa: Yes, again, it’s very tricky to judge it from the outside.
Rick Archer: Yes. Anyway, we’ve probably dwelt on that point enough. We can always come back to it. Did you want to say more, though?
Amoda Maa: No, no, we can come back to that.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. We’re talking about the theme of awakening being a significant milestone, but actually being just the beginning and that embodiment of awakening is the real journey. I’m just paraphrasing from your book right there. We’ll come back to that point as we go through the interview, but one other thing you also said in your book is that “that which has revealed itself as the truth of who I am, has also revealed a vision for humanity. There is a momentum pulling us toward an emerging future, and this future holds the potential for a collective awakening that catapults us into the next stage as a species.” What was that vision? I remember you said in the first interview something about this profound vision you had where you were flat on your back, just completely going into some other realm or something? Is that what you were alluding to there?
Amoda Maa: Yes, essentially. I don’t speak much about that anymore because I don’t want to mislead anyone about what that meant or whether it has anything to do with awakening. It really was something that revealed itself to me as I went into a deep place of surrender. More than the visionary aspect, it was a kind of deep knowing, a deep knowing that awakeness, or awakening, or this new consciousness that’s being birthed is not really to do with the individual, but to do with the collective and its coming through the individual. There was a thread of that that sort of showed me or spoke to me about the way that awakening is moving into humanity and the potential that has to change or transform the structure of humanity. Now I can’t categorically know, and I don’t know the details, and it’s not about the details, but it was a sense. This was 15 years ago, as I said and it links into what we’ve just said. It’s not just about the self-awakening and then living in this elevated state as an enlightened being, but actually how that pours into our everyday lives and what the impact of that is beyond our personal lives. How transformative that is, what the changes are, and I’m talking about relationship and work and all the structures of the human species.
Rick Archer: Yes. When you think about awakened people throughout history, famous ones, like Buddha, and Christ and Ramana, you don’t think, “Oh, what a cool personal life, they must have had.” You think in terms of the impact that they had on the world, which lasts in some cases for thousands of years. I don’t see why, quote-unquote, “ordinary people” shouldn’t also have an impact. I don’t see how they could help but have an impact, and if, as seems to be the case, lots of ordinary people are having awakenings these days, then that impact might be multiplied manifold and really produce some kind of fundamental societal transformation.
Amoda Maa: It’s precisely because more and more ordinary people are waking up that it will have an impact, and it’s not about becoming a spiritual teacher or anything like that. It’s about really living the truth of that awakeness right in the middle of the mess of life. Especially in relationship and especially as that awakeness, if you like, permeates into the relationship with children. Not as a teaching and not as any kind of special teaching or way of behaving, but really just that ability to be totally open and present with a child in beingness, in love, as love, without the codependency and conditioned love. It’s when we start to unravel or dissolve conditioned love, which is probably what the whole of humanity is based on, that something can really start to change. If we start one at a time with our children, then the impact is huge, because then those children probably won’t need to go on any kind of spiritual path. They really are that. It’s their natural state. That’s the possibility. I mean, who knows whether that will actually happen or not.
Rick Archer: Yes, there’s a thing in various spiritual traditions about how things are passed on from generation to generation. There’s a verse in The Gita, which speaks of how fortunate it is, if you can achieve it, to be born in the family of yogis. Although it says such a birth as this is very rare on Earth, but it’s becoming less rare if we define yogis as people who have undergone some sort of spiritual awakening. That too was exciting, in terms of the generational impact it may have.
Amoda Maa: No, I think that’s huge. I think that’s probably the key to the collective transformation.
Rick Archer: Now since we’re referring here to older traditions and stuff, there’s a place in your book where you say, “The recognition of our essential nature as this beingness is the foundation of awakening. What was relevant thousands of years ago is not so relevant today. An exponential increase in the pace and pressure of today’s world brings a radically new perspective to enlightenment that asks us to reframe our understanding of what it means to be an awakened human being.” I would just add the proviso that we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I mean, these ancient traditions have a lot to offer, but if we try to transpose the mentality of an ancient culture onto our current one, that’s not going to work. We have to sort of take the essence of what they’re teaching, derive what benefit from it we can, but really, I think that as the old saying goes, only a new seed can yield a new crop. There’s a new kind of spirituality emerging, which hopefully takes the best of the ancient traditions, but is fabricating and formulating it into something that’s appropriate for today’s world. A work in progress.
Amoda Maa: Yes. What I’m saying is not that the core teachings, the essence of those spiritual traditions is not relevant today, because the essence of awakening out of the dream of separation is timeless. It’s immortal. It doesn’t matter which tradition it comes from and it doesn’t matter which era it’s applied to. All I’m saying with that statement is a certain approach, which is about spiritual life, versus the rest of our life, which is about turning away from the world, in order to become spiritual, which, when that’s transposed into the 21st century, becomes a huge source of inner division and confusion, and a great impediment to living the truth of awakening, in everyday life, fully awake and fully human. Which is where the real transformation is happening or going to happen. Otherwise, it’s useless.
I speak to a lot of people who still have the mindset that spiritual practice is where they do the work, where they do the becoming more spiritual or becoming more enlightened or becoming more awake. Then the rest of the life is lived in the same old paradigm of inner division. Somehow, those two need to be totally brought together. If we can’t see our divided states in the middle of our relationships, in the middle of our relationship to our bodies, in the middle of our relationship to work, or money, or anything that’s part of the human experience, and especially today with the whole social and political climate. If we can’t see that inner divided state as it reacts to that, as it has that experience and then still holds inner division, then all that spiritual practice is pointless.
Rick Archer: I think part of the problem is that many of the custodians of ancient traditions were monks and they didn’t really put any emphasis on the kind of things that the vast majority of people need to be concerned with. In fact, many of them sort of advocated getting away from the world if possible and if you’re really serious about enlightenment, and for most people, that’s really not a helpful teaching.
Amoda Maa: Yes. If I may say also, in addition to that, one of the other things is that not all, certainly by no means all, but there are perhaps from those traditions, and even filtering into modern-day teachings, many spiritual teachers who are not living that awakeness in their everyday lives. There may be an avoidance of relationship or some kind of avoidance of getting one’s hands dirty in the mess of human experience. I think that that may be beginning to change, definitely, but I think that that needs to change more and more and more.
Rick Archer: Yes, I’m just scanning the notes here. I don’t know if I can find it. Oh, here we go. This is something from your book, you say “Statements such as pain is an illusion, there’s nobody here, there’s nothing happening and suffering does not exist, are very attractive to the seeker of nondual truth, but if these ideas remain unexamined in the present moment reality of pain, this so-called truth is a barrier to true freedom.” I’ve had various discussions with people who like to say those kinds of things, and in some kind of metaphysical, ultimate sense, those things are true, but in terms of any kind of living reality, that anybody we know is actually living, they’re just not useful. They’re just confusing and they cause people to disassociate.
Amoda Maa: Yes. When I first started speaking in public, which was actually many years after my awakening, but even then, I spoke more about nondual awareness, and the absolute of silence, of emptiness. As time’s gone on, I speak less and less about that. I don’t even refer to that, and I speak more and more about the capacity to open to life so wide, to soften, to turn towards the gentleness of the heart. Always. Even if it splits you open in two, even if it shatters you. It’s a kind of sacrifice of the self, but it’s not an avoidance of the self. Yes, at an absolute level, we need to, in some way, have seen very clearly that, on that level, there’s no suffering. On that level, there’s no me, there’s no you, there’s no inside, there’s no outside. After that’s been seen, it’s a total return to the world. It’s a total return to the human heartbreak of what is here.
Rick Archer: I would say it’s a return to the world without leaving that place, either. As you say, in that thing you read in the beginning, that I had to read. You said, “Nothing interrupts that pristine silence at the core of it all.” It doesn’t have to be either or, it can be both, and wouldn’t you say that that sort of foundation, as the pristine silence at the core of it all, is what actually enables you to be as open as you’re advocating that people be, willing to feel and experience everything fully? It gives you that sort of vast capacity to do that, without being overshadowed or hurt in your very core essence.
Amoda Maa: Yes. Yes, and the danger is sometimes when I speak about opening to the human experience, then there’s an avoidance of the realization of the abyss of emptiness at the core of being. That can be avoided because then there’s this permission to give ourselves to the human experience, but the danger in that is that we’re playing the same old reactivity again, the same old patterns, the same old unconscious seeking mechanisms. So it’s both.
Rick Archer: Yes. We talked about that a lot in our first interview about how one needs the sort of capacity, or foundation of self-realization, or that deep core of silence, in order really to implement, or to enact, or to live, the kinds of things you’re advocating. If all we know is the agitated surface level of life without any sort of deeper foundation, then we’re like a football tossed about or some little boat on the waves of the ocean just being tossed all over without an anchor.
Amoda Maa: Yes, and I’m almost contradicting myself here, because it is both, at the same time. That realization of emptiness as the ground of being isn’t necessarily found just by running to the mountaintop or hiding in the cave.
Rick Archer: No.
Amoda Maa: It can also be realized, and more potently, in the midst of life. That’s where we are called to be more vigilant, more honest, and more honest with ourselves, in exposing to ourselves where we are still putting up a defense against experiencing that. For instance, when we’re triggered in relationship. Everyone knows what it’s like to be triggered in relationship. That is a very potent doorway to the depth of openness or the breadth of openness that is required or that is possible when we stop either trying to hold on to relationship, or reject that relationship, which is the usual codependent pattern, but really allow whatever is at the core of that trigger, or inside that trigger, to in some ways, pierce us open to the core, without any attempt to protect ourselves from that, or protect the other from that. That in itself takes us into a core existential wound, which is the wound of aloneness or the wound of abandonment, because that’s what we’re most frightened of in life, and especially in relationship. It’s more condensed in that, but in the whole of life, the core belief, or the core wound, is one of existential aloneness. That we can actually open to in every aspect of our lives, we don’t have to run to a cave to open to that.
Rick Archer: Are you implying that opening to it is a step toward healing it and that it doesn’t have to always be a core wound?
Amoda Maa: I would say that it’s not about healing it in the conventional sense, in that we’re fixing it, but it is about opening to it, in the sense that: accepting it.
Rick Archer: As an awakened person, still alone at their core, is there–? There’s actually a positive connotation to the word “alone.” I think, kaivalya means alone, but that’s in the sense that there’s such unity in one’s awareness that there’s nobody else here. That it’s all one.
Amoda Maa: It is.
Rick Archer: You’re saying it’s a different kind of aloneness?
Amoda Maa: No, I’m saying that aloneness.
Rick Archer: Oh.
Amoda Maa: In the end, it’s the realization that there is only “I”. You can only know “I”. You actually can’t know anything else. I can only know everything appearing in the “I”.
Rick Archer: Right.
Amoda Maa: That’s an existential aloneness, but coming to that realization and that clear seeing brings up a fear of being alone. When we open to that fear and let it in some ways swallow us up or if we allow ourselves to fall into it, and it’s a very energetic experience, then we end up at the realization that there is only one. There is only oneness. Not the kind of oneness which is about we’re all connected, but the kind of oneness that there’s only one beingness moving through everything.
It can’t be any other way. In that sense, we’re both absolutely alone and we’re absolutely one. It sort of just collapses that whole notion, but to come to that seems to be the scariest place because as we come to the fear of aloneness, all sorts of issues come up. Feelings, thoughts, about abandonment, about exclusion, about lack of self-worth, about being unloved. They’re both personal ones from the personal story or history, but they’re also existential ones about being excluded from the kingdom of heaven. It goes really deep and somehow, if that’s fully opened to, then we can come to a real state of oneness.
Rick Archer: Yes, the Upanishads say, “Certainly all fear is born of duality.” To me, what that means is that all fears of any sort have their root in this sort of fundamental fear of fragmentation, or seeing oneself as estranged from the totality, as a separate drop from the ocean. You kind of have to pass through that portal in order to realize your ocean-hood and going through that portal can be like something from The Lord of the Rings or something. It can be a scary thing to have to go through because you could find stuff that was so artfully hidden.
Amoda Maa: Yes, and one of the sticking points in that is that we tend to think that our sense of aloneness or abandonment or unworthiness is a personal thing. It’s personal to me. That somehow I am the only one that is so wounded, that somehow I’m the only one that is so alone, somehow I’m the only one that’s abandoned, or excluded. Then we tend to look for the resolution of that in our personal story. That’s what the conventional sense of healing is. We try to fix it through therapy or certain healing modalities so that we can no longer feel wounded. That’s definitely a part of it, but that’s not really it because that can be, in some ways, resolved on a personal level, but there’s a deeper existential wound of separation, which is where I was referring to the acceptance. It’s that as consciousness is born into form, there’s a subtle separation. Now, on the absolute, absolute level, there is no separation, but that’s how we experience it. It’s mirrored through the process of birth. As we’re born, we become separate. There’s a subtle separation from that oneness of the womb, the oneness with the mother, which is the totality, into our separate form. It’s part of the human condition.
Rick Archer: Yes. You’re all about living the human condition fully, but I would ask you: We were talking earlier about awakening or enlightenment as being normal, but as really being kind of special if we compare it with how everyone else is living. How would you contrast how most people live with how an awakened person lives and experiences life with reference to this thing about the core wound of separation?
Amoda Maa: I’ll speak about it from my experience, which is the only place that I can really speak about it. From that point on, there has been no need for love. I’m in an intimate relationship, as many people know, which has a completely different fragrance to any relationship prior to this and to what I see as the conventional state of relationship. There is no need for love. There is nothing that can give me anything more than the love that I already am. There is nothing to hide, to protect, to contort, there’s no need to please. All those mental and emotional acrobatics that go around, or contortions that go around relationship in order to feel loved? All of that has gone, which means that I’m not a victim in relationship. When I say “victim,” I’m not talking just about physical abuse or emotional abuse, but the kind of victim that is on a more subtle level, where we are attempting to please the other in order for them not to reject us, or we’re attempting to seduce the other in order not to abandon us, or reject us. Or we’re trying to bully the other in order to– we bully, we beg, we barter, we seduce, we please, we play it small, and so on and so forth. All those subtle games that happen in relationship, which is part of the push and pull, and also part of the polarity of sexual attraction, all of that has fallen away. That is very radical.
Love is what moves in relationship. Not the kind of love that the mind thinks of in terms of being loved or being nice or being kind, but something much deeper than that, almost a divine intelligence that has a very different fragrance. Which means that it’s like a bubbling brook. That’s the only way I can describe it and that’s different.
I can’t remember your original question.
Rick Archer: Actually, I have another one here, which will prime the pump. To summarize what you’ve just said in simple terms, and see if I’m doing justice to it: Would you say that if two people are in a relationship and both are kind of needing something and trying to get something from the other, then neither is really giving and so nobody gets? They’re both trying to extract something from the other. Whereas if both people are established and a sort of self-sufficiency and kind of a natural tendency to overflow, like my cup runneth over, then both are giving therefore both receive? Although receiving isn’t their motivation, it’s just a natural byproduct of the dynamics of that relationship.
Amoda Maa: Yes, that’s beautifully put. I would go one step further and say there’s no giving and receiving.
Rick Archer: Okay, elaborate on that.
Amoda Maa: I’m not giving love. Love is the space within which these two forms are dancing.
Rick Archer: Oh, that’s nice, yes.
Amoda Maa: In that sense, I’m talking from personal experience here. The experience I have in relationship is that there actually is no other. There is, and they appear to be dancing in my field of consciousness, but that other really is the same as me. I don’t mean the same in terms of personality, but there’s really no division in that. Which means how can I be unkind? How can I be unforgiving? How can I be resentful? How can I be in any way, not fully open? It’s very raw. It’s very vulnerable. It’s very honest. It’s almost like there are no boundaries, it’s very permeable. That’s very different from us being two individuals where I’m giving love and receiving love.
That’s a nice refinement of the point I made.
Rick Archer: I guess to just spin off what you just said it’s like if you’re really appreciating the oneness of life then, like you said, how can I be unkind? How can I be hurtful, any more than you would cut your finger with a knife if you accidentally knocked over your milk or something? You wouldn’t punish it because it’s you.
Related to what we’ve just been saying, and you can indicate whether or not you’re speaking from experience, you say “When presence is your natural state and oneness is realized as your true nature, it’s very likely that there’s nothing more to gain by seeking oneness through sex. It’s at this point that the ancient–” [recording cuts out] “transmutation of sexual energy that gives birth to something that’s–” [recording cuts out]
Amoda Maa: [recording cuts in] -probably notice throughout the book, I speak about the seeking mechanism and how it plays itself out in every relationship that we have to everything that is part of the human experience. Obviously, sex is where that seeking mechanism is very much hijacked in some way by the hormonal system, by the biological system so that the drive to procreate is embedded in the psychological seeking mechanism. Maybe it’s the other way around, the psychological seeking mechanism is embedded in the biological need to procreate. It gets very sticky and very tangled up and very often, our motivation for sexual fulfillment or sexual oneness is really driven by the biological need to procreate. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s part of the human experience, but certainly from my experience, and I also know that Osho, who was my teacher for a while, spoke about this in very different terminology, but when the psychological need for oneness, or fulfillment, which comes from a sense of lack, a sense of not being enough, when that stops being the driving force for anything and has actually fallen away, then all you’re left with is the biological drive to procreate. For some, and not for all, that can also fall away.
Rick Archer: Especially if you’re past the age of procreation or you’re not interested in having more children or whatever. Osho himself was alleged to have had sexual relations with various students, so he wasn’t trying to procreate but he was still motivated by something. The pleasure–
Amoda Maa: I can’t comment on that. I don’t know his personal life enough to be able to speak about that. I do know from personal experience, that the push and pull, the polarity of sex which is based on the need for oneness can, and again I’m not saying categorically for everyone, fall away because there’s nothing more to be gained.
Rick Archer: Sure.
Amoda Maa: There’s nothing that can be added to the oneness and love that is this, that is always here. Which means that intimacy is happening all the time. There’s no separation between me and the other. It’s absolutely intimate. Always. I was speaking with somebody the other day, who said to me that they only felt deeply intimate in sexual intercourse and I would say where’s that intimacy gone, outside of that? Physical intimacy is a pale reflection of the intimacy, the vibrancy of that intimacy, that is always available. We don’t need to connect and then disconnect.
Rick Archer: Right, intimacy should be in every moment of life. Not only intimacy with a partner, intimacy with a tree, with a car, with a stone, with a dog, you know? If we’re really living at that level of oneness, then we’re infinitely intimate with the whole universe, are we not?
Amoda Maa: Which means that the whole of the experience becomes, if you like, a sexual union. It sort of goes way beyond.
Rick Archer: Yes, you wouldn’t necessarily use the term sexual for that.
Amoda Maa: No, a union.
Rick Archer: Just to put this point to rest and then we’ll move on, could there be some motivation other than procreation or a desire for oneness or whatever, for sexual activity, even after awakening? I mean, is there some kind of cosmic motivation or higher purpose or something that might kick in when the more needy individual motivations have dissipated?
Amoda Maa: Yes, I’ve come across that as well in tantric practices and all of that. In the end, my experience is, and I don’t know how true this is, that there’s actually nothing more, there’s no more elevated consciousness. Tantric practices are, and I’m not talking about modern tantric practices, really pointing to this open space as love, that’s here. It doesn’t take you any further or any higher. When this is lived as this, then there’s no need for that. It doesn’t take you anywhere else.
Rick Archer: What if one member of a partnership is feeling that way, but the other is not quite at that stage and there’s a disconnect or imbalance between the two?
Amoda Maa: That’s where honesty has to come in and I’m speaking of something quite rare here. As far as I know, when it has fallen away totally in two individuals, then there is something more invisible, but more powerful, that starts to emanate through what we call relationship out into the world. It’s like a reverberation. That’s quite rare, because usually there’s either one individual that has fully awakened, and many of those physical needs have fallen away, and the other one hasn’t. Then that has to be part of that particular dance. I’m not saying there’s a right way or a wrong way. I’m just saying what the possibility is, and it’s very often not spoken about, that that energy that goes into the sexual act is actually freed up to do something else. That’s unknown as yet.
Rick Archer: Unknown, by whom? I mean, it has been known.
Amoda Maa: By humanity on a larger-
Rick Archer: On a mass scale.
Amoda Maa: Yes.
Rick Archer: Sure. Yes. Okay. Well, thanks. You’ve dealt with that rather delicate topic in a very artful way. It’s good to discuss I think because as you say, it’s not talked about very much, probably because it’s not a big selling point in most people’s minds, but it’s something that they are likely to encounter at some stage of the game and it needs to be understood. A couple of questions came in, which I think are relating to things we’ve said. Firstly, our friend Spencer from Olympia, Washington asks, “What would you suggest for deepening our everyday communications? I am especially interested in learning to listen to others on a deeper level as the ground on which communication can arise.”
Amoda Maa: Yes, listening is the same as saying openness. It’s the ability to listen, not with our ears, but with our hearts, to really just be the open space, to stand or to sit as openness and listen to the vibration of another, whatever that other is, whether that’s a human being or a tree or whatever, but we’re talking about human beings here, I imagine, and that’s something we can practice. We can practice that by seeing how the compulsion to fill in the gaps, the compulsion to give attention to the story, or the conversation or the dialogue in our own heads can be so strong and to be willing, absolutely willing, 100% willing, to just stop. Just stop. In that stopping, there’s a sense of vulnerability, because it’s unknown. There may be a gap. There may be an actual physical silence. Then the mind will have all these other stories like, “Oh, well, they don’t really like me, why aren’t they speaking to me?” Or maybe they’re rejecting me, and maybe they don’t agree with me. There’s a kind of discomfort that arises.
The invitation at that point is to hang with that discomfort. To hang with that discomfort to pause at the edge of that discomfort, and not to give the same old attention or devotion to the inner dialogue, again. To actually just hang with that discomfort, and see what happens because actually, that’s where the love is. The love isn’t in the sharing of the stories, the love is in the meeting of two silences. Now “those two silences” doesn’t mean that you never speak, but it does mean that when you do speak, it arises out of that.
Rick Archer: My wife and I often talk about the fact that most people, it seems, are not good listeners. I mean, you can be talking to a person and they’ll be going on and on and on about something, about their life, about this, about that, and then if you try to reciprocate a little bit, they immediately lose their attention span. It’s like, “eh.”
Amoda Maa: Yes, mostly when people are telling their story, they’re telling it to themselves. They’re not actually moved by love’s intelligence, they’re moved by their own egoic need to repeat the story to themselves because it fills in the spaces, which would otherwise be revealed as openness, vulnerability, emptiness, and as the core wound of aloneness. That’s where it takes you in the end.
Rick Archer: Which would all be rather uncomfortable things to face. If you hadn’t faced them, there might be a tendency to try to keep avoiding them.
Amoda Maa: Yes, but that’s where the nitty-gritty of the human experience is shown by this example, this situation? That’s where the doorway to awakeness is, in the middle of our lives.
Rick Archer: Also, I think the stuff you said earlier about aloneness, in the higher sense of the term, of all is one and you are that, has a lot of relevance to Spencer’s question. In that, listening to others can really be profound, once you realize there are no others. Everything is seen as the self. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Well, others are you. If you’re really functioning on that level, then doing and listening and everything else is going to have a completely different flavor to it, then if life is lived in separation.
Amoda Maa: In the end, it’s about the simplicity of being together. Mostly, people are not meeting on the being level. They’re meeting on opinions, preferences, likes, dislikes, judgments, and so on. They’re sharing those with each other. Really, they’re just sharing it with themselves because they’re just repeating that same divided state, because it feeds itself. When we’re to-ing and fro-ing with another human being, then we end up either in a battle of disagreement or some kind of upholding of something through agreement. Neither of those is actually meeting each other in beingness and love cannot happen unless we meet in beingness. From that place, intelligent conversation can take place.
Rick Archer: Yes.
Amoda Maa: That serves a function, that serves something. I’m not talking about a mental kind of intelligence about knowledge, but really love’s intelligence will start to guide the conversation. That is both more nourishing, but also serves a purpose because it’s more likely to lead to something creative or a new revelation or just more love. It has a very different quality to it. The capacity to just be quiet and listen as emptiness is hugely, hugely powerful.
Rick Archer: Yes. Irene scribbled out a little question here: “As ego diminishes, there should be less self-absorption in the small sense of the term?”
Amoda Maa: Yes, and I guess that’s what we’re speaking about, the need to constantly repeat stories is self-absorption.
Rick Archer: Yes. Here’s a question from Nicola in Belgrade. I’m not sure if that’s a man or woman, but here she asks, “How does the oneness manifest in the relative? Do we use it? Surrender into it? What is there to be done with it?”
Amoda Maa: “How does the oneness manifest in the relative?” The oneness manifests when all inner division comes to an end. I think I’ve already said this but I’ll try and say it again, perhaps more clearly: The end of inner division is when we stop trying to reject our experience because it doesn’t make us feel good, or we don’t like it. We don’t like the way it feels, we don’t like the way it–? In other words, we don’t like the way I feel in response to it. It makes me feel not special. It makes me feel unloved. It makes me feel rejected. When we try to reject that inner feeling in response to what our experience is, we’re operating in a divided state. We’ve divided ourselves from our inner experience, the depth of our inner experience. We could call it quite simply “arguing with what is.”
Here we’re arguing with what is and I’m not talking about the event or the circumstance, but our inner response to that. Our inner experience. When we live or operate from that inner division, there’s no oneness. Oneness then becomes a concept that we can imagine, as some sense of feeling good, feeling connected, feeling loved, feeling taken care of, feeling we’re with like-minded people, and so on and so forth, a sense of belonging. That’s not real oneness. Real oneness manifests as your lived experience, when there is no attempt to reject the depth of your inner experience, or hold on to it, or use it as a way to uphold your sense of self. Your sense of being loved, a sense of being special. It always comes back down to this. That sense of being worthy. There’s no attempt to do anything with that inner experience. It is simply, in the deepest possible way, accepted, opened to. It’s very innocent.
Rick Archer: I just wanted to add something in response to Nicola’s question, which is that there’s this verse in The Gita which says, “Established in yoga, perform action.” Yoga, meaning oneness or union, and the implication of the verse, because he asked about how you can use being or oneness. In a sense, you can use it, in the sense that if you are established there, then the impulses of your individual mind leading to your individual actions are no longer merely individual. They’re sort of the promptings of cosmic intelligence, or a much vaster intelligence than is ordinarily reflected in the individual. Life tends to go much more smoothly because you’re not clashing against nature’s natural tendencies as you go through it.
Amoda Maa: Yes, and I’ll add something to that. Which is, you don’t use it, it uses you.
Rick Archer: Great, that’s the way to put it. Yes.
Amoda Maa: It really does. In that sense, your life stops being your own. It becomes a servant. It comes into service of, we could call it a bigger intelligence, life’s intelligence, love’s intelligence, whatever terminology we want to use, and that will color our idea of it. When you’re living from that space, there aren’t any words that are sufficient to describe this, then there’s a whole host of misunderstandings and confusions around that because then there’s the question that usually comes out, well, does that mean that I’m passive? Does that mean, I’m kind of just going along with the flow? Does that mean that I’m always doing good things for others, and so on? These questions are coming from the separate self, so even inside that, you are being used by that beingness, used by that intelligence. There’s still a sense of I in that. There’s still a sense of I-ness. It’s just that the I that appears to be making decisions and following impulses is actually responding to that intelligence and not responding to its own egoic need for something to become more of itself.
Rick Archer: Yes, you become an instrument of the Divine.
Actually, you just touched on a theme that I also wanted to discuss with you, which is this sense of self or the sense of I? Some people say it completely falls away, and you have people, especially in the UK, where there seems to be a number of fairly prominent teachers who keep drilling this point in that there is no self, there is no person. People repeat that over and over again, and others start hearing it and they try to live with somehow that in mind. I have never gotten that. I mean, I’m willing to grant people the benefit of the doubt, but the people I know who say that, at least from my perspective, which is admittedly questionable, seem to have a self. As you put in your book, if you stick a pin in their legs, it’s going to come into rather acute focus.
What’s your take on that whole issue that is often discussed in spiritual circles? When I say a self, I don’t mean that that’s their predominant reality, it could be quite diminished compared to what it used to be or is for most people. It could be like a candle in the sun that you can barely see because the sunlight is so bright, but still, the candle is burning and seems to be necessary in order to function as a human being, but I may be wrong.
Amoda Maa: This goes back to a maturation process. Yes, at some point, there’s a realization that there’s no self, that the self dies into emptiness, that there’s nothing outside of this, therefore there’s no me and there’s no you, there’s no self and there’s no other. All of this is part of the awakening. The realization that there is nothing other than this, and that I as a psychological construct, am not standing outside of reality, but when that’s held on to as a primary belief and then becomes the primary focus of the teaching, it’s very misleading. It’s very misleading because it’s like half of the picture. The self does continue after awakening. The self very much continues. It’s not relative in opposition to the absolute, they’re one and the same. The relative, the self, is simply an external representative of beingness. It continues, there’s no other way and it continues, not perhaps, but definitely, in the way that we’ve described, with a new fragrance. A new fragrance that is ever unfolding and ever-deepening.
The self in some ways becomes more permeable, or more transparent. That’s the only way I can describe it, in the sense that it’s more permeable or more transparent because there’s no more armoring around the heart, around the belly, around the self in order to play the codependent relationships with life. We become transparent, or almost like open vessels, where life is simply pouring into me, and I am not attempting to protect myself from that or to get anything from it. In that sense, the self becomes no self. The self and life are one, but the experience of daily life as a human experience continues within that. To not speak about that and to only focus on one side of the coin is misleading.
Rick Archer: It confuses people.
Amoda Maa: It’s confusing. Yes, there’s a definite sense of self. Yes, there’s a definite body here that if you punch it, if you hit it, if you hurt it, it’s going to hurt, it’s going to respond, and so on and so forth. There’s a body here that needs to eat and to rest and to sleep and to be taken care of, but that’s not in opposition to the one beingness that moves this body, that moves this self. They’re one and the same.
That then goes back to well, I can’t harm this body, this self. I can’t harm this because there’s nothing to harm, it’s all one. Neither can I harm another because that other is also this one beingness. It’s also an external representative of this one beingness.
Rick Archer: There are a couple of things I want to say in response to that. One is that you referred to this no-self thing as a belief, but I think for some people it’s an experience. For instance, if you’ve ever read the book, Collision with the Infinite by Suzanne Segal, she was getting on a bus in Paris one day and all the sudden shifted into this radical awakening, in which she could no longer find a sense of self. It terrified her and freaked her out, and she spent 10 years looking for a sense of self. Meanwhile, raising a daughter and getting a graduate degree, and so on. Finally, she ended up with Jean Klein who kind of straightened her out and she relaxed into it, and probably would have acknowledged that there was in fact, a sense of self, it had just become radically different than what it had been before the shift. So there’s that. Do you want to respond to that before I go on?
Amoda Maa: Yes, that’s that sense of no-self, where it can’t be located as a point in space and time is part of the release of separation, the dissolving of separation, which is part of the awakened experience, or the awakening out of the dream of separation. Certainly for me after awakening 15 years ago, that was part of that experience. My experience was that I am located everywhere and nowhere and that’s a very palpable experience. When we don’t hold on to that in any way, then it quite quickly, possibly, maybe for different people it takes a different amount of time, the self and that unlocatable self almost come into alignment, they become one and the same. Then they’re not in opposition. It’s not just one or the other. It’s both. That’s probably where Jean Klein put her straight. Maybe for some people that energetic experience of being everywhere and nowhere, so there’s no self that you can hold on to, maybe some people are more attuned to that. Then it’s quite difficult to not come back because you’re not returning to anything but to integrate the two. It’s an integration that happens. For me, it was very quick, it happened very quickly that the no-self and the self just simply merged into one.
Rick Archer: Next point, and I wanted to say in response to that, is that you mentioned in your book about “refusal of suffering.” I think you could also, in this context, say refusal of the sense of there being a self or of the notion that there actually is one on some level, can result in a kind of “coldness, non-acceptance of the vulnerability of being truly alive as a human being. On a behavioral level, this reveals itself in a number of ways.” I thought this was noteworthy because I’ve encountered these. “For some, there’s an avoidance of relationship and its capacity to break us apart. For others, there’s an abdication of self-care and self-responsibility that can lead to excessive risk-taking or even harmful lifestyle choices.” I’ve talked to people who have undergone some sort of awakening and have this daredevil attitude and do kind of really risky things, dangerous rock climbing and stuff with this attitude that it’s only the body, whatever happens to it is insignificant, yadda, yadda. There have been a couple of nondual teachers who have committed suicide with that kind of attitude. Maybe they have some physical pain or some disease coming on, they decided to check out because they feel like there’s nobody here that’s actually ending. It’s his life, you know?
You go on about caring about the body and people not caring about the body, whether it’s overweight, or even this may extend to a lack of concern for sentient life. You say, “They may believe the world and everything in it is an illusion, that they don’t need to care what happens to the Jews, the Iraqis, the polar bears, the honeybees, the polluted rivers.” I’ve heard nondual teachers say that too, when asked by people with environmental concerns about the state of the world, it’s just a speck of dust, doesn’t matter what happens to it. I’m glad you addressed that in your book. I think it’s something that we need to get more sensible about as a spiritual culture.
Amoda Maa: Yes, I think that this is also, along the lines of what we’ve been speaking of, a tricky inner navigation with that. Caring for the body or caring for the body of the planet, if that arises out of a sense of doing good, or a sense of doing right, then that’s really not the movement of love. That’s the movement of self and in that sense, it’s not going to lead to any really real transformation. On the other hand, to remain untouched by the suffering of the world means that there’s still a veneer of self protecting itself. We can open to that and allow the very real suffering of the world because it’s real on a relative level, and the relative and the absolute are the same. They’re just reflections of each other, or the relative is a reflection of the absolute. To allow that suffering to touch us to the core is part of the ever-deepening opening. Either there’s no movement, in which there’s just stillness, there’s just silence, there’s just the openness of that where the heart is pierced all the way. We are one with that suffering, we are one with that loss, we are one with that heartbreak, so we’re not immune to it, but there’s no action from that because it’s not relevant, it’s not intelligent. Or there’s action because it moves from intelligence. Either way, that’s okay. It’s not what it looks like on the outside. It’s not about saving the planet or saving this, that, and the other. It is about not setting up a veneer of immunity to that, because only the right action will flow from that deepest openness.
Rick Archer: I’d say that if you’re motivated to do good– it’s better than being motivated to do bad. I mean somebody who wants to save the Arctic wildlife refuges is, in my opinion, motivated by higher principles than somebody who wants to drill oil in it in order to get some more billions of dollars, by my sense of values. I agree with you that ultimately, and ideally, action should be motivated from a field that lies beyond both good and bad. That Rumi quote: “There’s a field beyond good and bad, I’ll meet you there.” If we can function from there, then we’ll really be beyond the polarities and we’ll be motivated by a much more comprehensive and vast intelligence.
Amoda Maa: That’s where awakening out of the dream of separation, or out of the dream of duality can serve the world.
Rick Archer: Here’s a question from Dan in London, your hometown, or originally your home country anyway. “Spiritual discussions, such as happens on BatGap, are essentially a discussion of the human condition. However, for some people, the word spiritual has baggage, misunderstandings with it, such as baggage from mainstream religions. If they actually understood that what is being talked about and explored is really just the essential human condition, then they may be much more attracted to it. Somehow it feels like the word spiritual may put some people off, even though that’s what they’re really looking for. How can language be modified to open spirituality to a wider audience?”
Amoda Maa: Wow, that’s a good question.
Yes, I agree, in the sense that the word spiritual has a lot of baggage, it has a lot of connotations, and it is about the human condition. I do actually speak about this a lot. If you watch my videos or listen to some of my talks, I’ve often spoken about how it’s an existential inquiry, not a spiritual inquiry. It’s existential in the sense that this is about the human condition and whatever language we use, it’s always going to be some kind of cover-up against the real discovery of the real truth. We have to use language to have any kind of dialogue and personally, I sort of naturally play with that language in the sense that I come from it this way and this way, and depending on who I’m speaking with, then I hopefully facilitate an examination of what is meant by spiritual and whether that spiritual concept, that idea of spirituality is actually an impediment to something. Very often I talk about throwing away the whole concept of spirituality and opening as an authentic human being to the experience you’re having so that the whole polarity of spiritual and non-spiritual just collapses because that’s another divided state. We divide into spiritual and non-spiritual or spiritual and human. Yes, there’s a lot in that question.
Rick Archer: I always find myself coming back to definitions and asking people to define how they use terms like awakening, or spiritual or whatever, because sometimes these terms are thrown about glibly, as though everyone agreed upon their meanings. Even the word God, I think, a lot of people are squeamish about that one, but it actually refers to something really beautiful if you really define it. Not as the guy with the beard in the clouds, but as the sort of intelligence that permeates and orchestrates every little bit of creation, which you can see plainly if you take a look, even through the lens of modern science, there’s something marvelous and mysterious going on. You have to keep going back and defining these terms if you’re going to use them.
Amoda Maa: Yes, and just keep on unraveling or surrendering every concept that we have that we think we know what it means.
Rick Archer: Yes, that’s a good point.
Amoda Maa: Surrendering that meaning like, don’t find meaning in the words. The words are just words. Of course, we have to be accurate so we’re not just using any old words in a messy or misleading fashion. I use words very accurately, but don’t over invest meaning in those words. Listen to what is inside that, listen to the vibration. It’s back to the listening thing. Listen with your being and then you’ll find that the words are just like little arrows that keep pointing you to something and if you keep on surrendering the investment of meaning in those words, you fall into the beingness that it’s pointing to.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Out at the SAND Conference, I had breakfast with Tim Freke and Deepak Chopra, and Deepak was going on about how everything is a concept. Every idea we have, even about physical things like the moon, the universe, gravity, or anything else, it’s all human concepts. I kept saying, yes, but those concepts actually do refer to something which has its own intrinsic reality, regardless of how clearly or accurately we conceptualize it. I mean, the moon doesn’t depend upon our understanding of it. It didn’t change from green cheese to rock when our understanding of it became a little bit more mature. It is what it is and we do our best with concepts and words and whatnot to grasp what’s actually going on and to communicate that with others.
Amoda Maa: If you’re listening from concepts, then you’ll hear concepts. If you’re listening from openness, you’ll hear love.
Rick Archer: Nice.
We talked earlier about your vision for the world. I’m just going to come back to that for a minute. You say in your book, “As old-world structures become obsolete and die, and are replaced by social, cultural, political, and economic structures that reflect the highest expression of human potential, there’s a high probability of great upheaval.” This is something I’ve often pondered over the last several decades myself, that it seems like a lot of change is in order. If we’re really going to live in a society that’s governed by, as you put it, the highest expression of human potential, so many things are going to have to be shifted around and perhaps crumble and new things arise in their place. I think we’re already kind of seeing that, but maybe “we ain’t seen nothing yet,” as the expression goes. Any comments on that idea?
Amoda Maa: I don’t know where it’s going. I don’t have a comment, it’s not a prediction. It could be that it goes nowhere. It could be that we destroy ourselves completely. It could be that evolution has a different plan in mind. We’re not necessarily the only species worth saving in existence, and so on and so forth.
What I will say in response to that, and what I was really referring to in the book, is that the darkness that we see, the chaos that we see, and that we are seeing increasingly, the horror that we see, the confusion and all of this that we see is not necessarily a sign of things having gone wrong. It’s a sign that that very darkness, that very terror, that very horror, is the place that is the catalyst for the end of division. The end of division, first of all, before anything can happen in the outer world, in the inner world, the end of division. As the world becomes more divided, more horrifying, and more terrifying, that’s where we are triggered into our judgments, our sense of rightness and wrongness, our sense of righteousness, that I am right, even when I feel wronged. Righteousness is what drives the division that we see in the world. There’s a lot of that going on today.
Rick Archer: There’s a polarity in American politics these days, that seems to be unprecedented, and it largely reflects what you just said, that sense of I am right. Even among so-called liberal people, there’s a kind of militant refusal to listen to other perspectives. People are shouted down with bull horns, or forbidden from speaking on campuses if they try to express a perspective that doesn’t jibe with the liberal perspective. People on both sides of that divide are guilty of it.
Amoda Maa: We see that very obviously in the world, but we don’t see it so easily in ourselves in our response to that. I still see very intelligent, very open, very spiritual, very conscious people still operating from inner division, that inner division just is a sense of righteousness. Of course, we must have a sense of discernment in terms of justice in the world and all that, but when we’re giving ourselves to that sense of righteousness in ourselves, we’ve created a very strong us and them in ourselves, a rightness and wrongness in ourselves. That creates further division. If anything’s going to change on the external in terms of the division that we see in the world, then that response in ourselves has to change first, and then we can move from intelligence, then we can respond intelligently, and that may have a very different outcome.
Going back to the original part of this conversation, the horror and division that we see in the world is precisely the catalyst that we need to reflect on our own inner divided response. Actually, dare I say, it’s a blessing. It’s a gift. It’s the doorway. It’s not that there’s something gone wrong, it’s actually something gone right, in the sense that in order to cleanse ourselves of our own inner divided state, the external world is there to reflect it.
Rick Archer: Yes, it’s reminiscent of what you said earlier about heartbreak on an individual level being a potential catalyst for deep realization. The situation in the world can also be a catalyst for maybe collective realization.
Amoda Maa: It is and I don’t think anything’s going to change in the world until we actually get that or see that, one person at a time.
Rick Archer: A lot of people talk these days about the divine feminine. In fact, I just interviewed Vera de Chalambert a month ago, and she was talking a lot about that, and many others do. You make a commentary on this, you say, “The new spiritual frequency arising today may have the look and feel of a feminine vibration, but it actually has nothing to do with gender. Rather, it’s about something much more universal. It’s actually a frequency and expression that can come through a female or a male body, or through any life form.”
What’s your whole take on this sort of popularity of the divine feminine that you hear these days, and in light of the point you just made in the passage I read?
Amoda Maa: I think the conversation around the divine feminine is prevalent today because it’s a redressing of the balance. It’s a response to the grip of the masculine or the patriarchal. That’s part of what I’m saying, but really, the feminine that I’m speaking of is not about anything in opposition to anything. It’s not got to do with the battle of the sexes or the return of a feminist approach or whatever it is. I’m talking about the infusion of love into humanity.
The infusion of love is what’s been missing and what I mean by that, let’s go a little bit deeper, is the capacity to turn towards gentleness, the capacity to turn towards the tenderness of the inner heart, which is not what’s been happening. Whether we’re on the masculine side, patriarchal, or matriarchal side. In some ways, we’re still operating at the level of some kind of, in some ways, hardness. I’m talking about the capacity to turn towards tenderness in response to our experience, and therefore in response to each other, and therefore in response to the world. Which requires a shift from mind, to heart, through surrender, not through knowing. We can apply that to spiritual practice or we can apply that to the totality of our life’s experience.
I get the sense that this frequency is beginning to filter in. I call it feminine because it’s about surrender, but it’s filtering in through everyone. Whether we’re male or female, whether we’re long-time on this planet or just born. There’s a different frequency that’s coming through and I guess that’s what I’m referring to.
I don’t speak about the feminine much actually.
Rick Archer: No, but I liked what you just said, it was nicely put, and I can really relate to the idea of tenderness, softness, and you often talk about that. I think it’s a good way to function if one can function that way.
At one point in your book– and feel free to pipe up as I’m going along here.
Amoda Maa: Yes, can I just say something, a little bit more about tenderness so that it’s not misconstrued. I’m not talking about passivity and I’m not talking about just being, “woo-woo” or anything like that.
Rick Archer: Right, or being a pushover or something like that.
Amoda Maa: Yes, and it’s not got anything to do with a goddess archetype or any of that. It’s got nothing to do with archetypes, stereotypes, or roles, or concepts. The tenderness that I speak of, if it’s going to serve any purpose, is a tenderness towards our inner experience. If we examine that, we probably can see how we are not tender towards our inner experience, which means that when we have an experience that we don’t like, that makes us feel uncomfortable, that makes us feel vulnerable, that makes us feel scared, that makes us feel unloved, that makes us feel alone or anything like that, then we attempt to reject it, suppress it, deny it, constrict it, and so on and so forth. Change it, maneuver it, squeeze it, spit it out. That is not tenderness. That’s aggression. That’s violence. We are violent towards our own experience.
If you can stop that violence and choose tenderness towards your experience, then you can forget about spirituality, you can forget about spiritual practice, you can forget about spiritual teachings, and you will live fully awake and fully human because that’s what it is: non-violence towards our inner experience. Then, when we’re violent towards our inner experience, what follows that is then I’m wrong or they’re wrong, or it’s wrong, and then you have become a victim of reality. As long as you’re a victim of reality, you are separate and when you’re separate, you’re living in the dream of separation. All horrors arise from that, all suffering, personal and otherwise, arises from that. This thing about tenderness, this key of tenderness, this pointer of tenderness is actually way more powerful than the word tenderness implies.
Rick Archer: That’s good. I would suggest that our behavior toward others and toward the world, in general, is symptomatic of the degree to which we are tender toward ourselves or have attuned to ourselves, right? These people who commit these terrorist acts and so on, there’s an inner hardness, a crudeness, that is just expressed through their behavior. They’re at war with themselves therefore they’re at war with the world.
Amoda Maa: Yes. They’re at war with their own fear. Everything violent arises out of fear and that fear may have a thread, a root in a sense of injustice, in a sense of being abused, in a sense of not being complete and whole and safe, and one and all of that. It has a certain intelligence in it, but when we’re violent towards that fear, then it ends up as you say, as violence towards that which appears to be causing that fear. Then we have the terror and the war and the violence in the world, but if we can turn that tenderness towards ourselves– those of us that have the capacity to do that, and that’s a vast majority of the privileged, Western world, not all but certainly a proportion. If we do have the capacity to turn that tenderness towards ourselves, towards our inner experience– and that’s very often overlooked. If we take that as the only spiritual practice there is, I would say that there would be a vast transformation.
Rick Archer: Yes. We often hear the phrase, maybe not often enough, that the heart melts, becomes soft and tender, and melted. I think that one can live that way. Perhaps getting to that state is going to necessitate some grief and processing of deep pain and so on, which you talk about eloquently in your book, but it is a state that one can live in. Then there’s just this sort of intimate, tender relationship to everything in life.
Amoda Maa: Tenderness.
One of the things that we’re so frightened of is the experience of loss, whether that loss is the loss of a loved one, or the loss of our own life, or the loss of whatever it is that we think that we’ve gained, and its success or wealth or love or recognition. Yet, our willingness to be tender towards that loss is a very profound opening to what can never be lost, which is beingness, itself. It’s like meeting death in everything.
Rick Archer: When you say tenderness toward loss, do you mean allowing yourself to kind of fully feel whatever is felt when something is lost or someone, whatever, rather than trying to numb it by some distraction, excitement, drug or whatever?
Amoda Maa: Yes, certainly that’s part of it. Being tender towards loss is again, not investing that loss with meaning. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad, it doesn’t mean that you’re unloved, it doesn’t mean that your life is broken, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, and so on and so forth. We tend to invest loss with a meaning to do with me. It’s all about me, but to be tender towards that is to feel the absolute shattering of loss, and yet, when we don’t invest meaning in that, we discover that there is nothing that can be lost.
Rick Archer: Good. Shifting gears, in your book you mentioned three stages of awakening. “The first stage comes with a radical shift in perception, the world of form is seen to be impermanent and therefore without real substance.” Should I read all three stages, or do you want to say anything?
Amoda Maa: No, go for it.
Rick Archer: The second is “A revelation of luminosity that remains when everything falls apart, an undeniable awareness of enduring emptiness as the ground of reality.” The final stage is “The recognition that relative and absolute reality are one.”
It’s interesting that you break it down this way because I’ve heard it described this way in different terms but the same concepts by a number of teachers. There’s the sort of the impermanence of the relative world and the sort of emptiness of being and then the luminosity, which is not only relevant, referring to the sort of inner reality, but the world itself is seen in terms of its more refined or luminous values. Then there’s that relative and absolute are one, that there actually aren’t these two, but that there’s just a totality or wholeness that subsumes both relative and absolute. Nice that you outlined it that way.
Amoda Maa: Yes, I sort of broke it down into what seemed like three stages, but really, very often, those three stages are experienced as one. Certainly in my experience, I experienced all three as one, but very often you get to see that it’s easy to get stuck in one of those modes of perception.
Rick Archer: People do sometimes.
Amoda Maa: Yes, I know in the early stages, if we look back, you asked me originally and we talked about the possibility of there being many different awakenings or kinds of awakenings. Certainly for me, there were, in earlier years, different awakenings. They were always some form of seeing the emptiness, of seeing the realization that there’s nothing here but consciousness and within that, all the usual structures, mental and emotional psychological structures, kind of collapsed. That led to a gross and subtle clinging to that state, so that anything that impacted it, lessened it, or diluted it was seen as something to be gotten rid of, or that something had been lost. Certainly, that was the earlier awakenings. I didn’t see them like that at the time, but when I look back on it. When awakening happened 15 years ago, it was like all three things together.
Rick Archer: We’re getting close to the end of our time together. I have quite a few more notes here, but we don’t need to read every single one. We’ve talked about quite a few things over the last couple of hours.
I know that you talked quite a bit about relationship and how “Life’s intelligence is bringing loss to our doorstep for a reason, not as a punishment,” I’m reading from your book here, “but as a doorway to liberation.” Possibly that would be a good note to end on because people go through a lot of stuff and a lot of difficulties and sometimes it’s hard to see it as having a silver lining. It just seems like I’m being punished, why is life so cruel to me and how come I don’t get a break?
I always feel that there’s a larger intelligence at work in the universe that ultimately is facilitating our evolution, our growth, to higher and higher expressions of itself, really, of that divine essence. Therefore, there is no real punishment or capriciousness, or arbitrariness in the universe. It’s all one big cosmic evolution machine and it’s not always pretty or comfortable or pleasant, but in the big picture, something good is happening.
Amoda Maa: I think we have to be careful there not to replace one belief system with another. It’s not about replacing a belief in punishment, or a cruel universe with a belief in a benevolent universe. It’s about going beyond the polarity or duality of those beliefs and examining the belief that I am being punished. Examining the belief that I am wrong, or I am bad, and really investigating whether you know, or each individual that’s asking the question knows, whether that’s absolutely true. Do you actually know that you are being punished? Or does it simply hurt? There’s a big difference between the two. In that sense, we start to unravel our personal stories from our experience of reality, and only then can loss reveal its gifts.
The purpose of loss is to show us, to reflect back to us. That’s not the only purpose of loss, but in this case, loss is a point of inquiry or a point of doorway into truth, loss reflects back to us very vociferously our beliefs that are based in untruths. They’re based in inherited beliefs, whether they’re religious or cultural, or from our family, and so on. We don’t examine them.
To examine them is not to replace them with another belief, but to ask ourselves, can I categorically, absolutely, totally know that I’m being punished? If I am being punished, who or what is punishing me? I’ve asked that question to many people, and when we come to that, they’re dumbfounded. Who or what is punishing you? Now we can go and say, yes, my father did this and told me this, but right now, with that belief, which is the only place where it is right now, who or what is punishing you? They can’t find anything, except an imagination, but that imagination very quickly evaporates in the light of truth.
It can be a real point of inquiry and when we keep examining that, then loss can really reveal the gift of the luminosity of being that has no beliefs in it, that has no investment of self in it, that has no poor me in it. That’s how we get cleansed of victim consciousness, which is the dream of separation.
Rick Archer: It does seem, though, that if you’re saying that loss can be a doorway to liberation and that the hard knocks of life can actually be useful in our growth, that you are kind of implying that it is a benevolent universe. There are a lot of things that happen in the universe in our world, of course, that don’t seem benevolent. If you really take your statements there in a radical way, then it would seem that the difficulties of life are not a punishment, or at least, the way you’re implying that that’s the way the universe actually does work, that everything is a growth opportunity, if it can be appreciated as such.
Amoda Maa: Yes, it ends up at your original statement about it being a benevolent universe. Yes, it does. Everything is seen as love in disguise. Everything is love in disguise, but we can’t get to that, we can’t truly know that we can’t truly embody that, we can’t truly live that by replacing one belief with another. You can only allow that to be revealed when all beliefs have been surrendered into it. Then you end up at that.
Rick Archer: I think that’s a good point.
Amoda Maa: It’s real. There are a lot of people in the Self-development, New Age, and Positive Thinking world who have a belief in a benevolent universe, in the goodness of life, but it doesn’t go all the way. It’s a belief system, it stays on the mental level.
Rick Archer: Yes, I get your point.
Amoda Maa: I’m talking about to truly live that, to truly know that without it ending up as a belief system, but to really feel that, which means that you’re always going to be opening to that, come what may, even if there’s terrible fear there or terrible darkness, you’re still willing to open to that. That has to come from examining all the beliefs that are in response to that.
Rick Archer: What you’re saying, I think, is that if one really experiences something viscerally and deeply, then the word belief is sort of irrelevant, and inappropriate. It’s like, do you believe in apples? Well, of course, I have experienced apples. Do you believe in leprechauns? Maybe, I don’t know. I’ve never experienced one. Direct experience makes belief an irrelevant term.
I remember Oprah Winfrey was interviewing Eckert Tolley one time, and she was saying these little things and asking him to complete the sentence. She said, “I believe in,” and he said, “Nothing in particular.”
Amoda Maa: Yes.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. There’s never a good point at which to end these interviews. They always seem to be so interesting, at least to me, and hopefully to others.
Is there anything you’d like to give us in closing?
Amoda Maa: No, I think we’ve gone along many different rivers and perhaps there’s a common thread in it all.
I come back to tenderness. I come back to the depth of that inner experience and being willing to open to that and being willing to be honest with oneself, where one is being violent towards one’s own inner experience. Very often, we don’t even admit that to ourselves. That admittance is the beginning of tenderness.
Rick Archer: If people want to interact with you, or get involved with whatever you’re offering, what are you offering? Do you do individual Skype sessions, like many teachers do?
Amoda Maa: I do very few of those, I have certain days, every month or every other month that I do offer sessions, and they’re all up on my website, but only on those days. Mostly, I offer my work through retreats. There’s a retreat coming up at the end of next week at Mount Madonna. I find that during the retreats we can really be together in intimacy and in honesty and there’s a certain level of trust and letting go that can happen so that the inquiry can go deeper. It’s all held or offered in a space of love where the real transformation can happen. Very often that can’t happen if it’s just an hour’s talk or a meeting, but those are offered as well. Those are the entry points. There’s a whole variety of things going on if you look on [unintelligible].
Rick Archer: I’ll be linking to your website. I know you give retreats up in Seattle and I imagine you’d be doing them all over the place as time goes on. People can obviously check on your website and probably sign up to be notified by email when something’s happening and all the usual stuff, right?
Amoda Maa: Yes.
Rick Archer: Ok good.
Thanks. I’ll be linking to your books and your website, as I mentioned, and let me just make a couple of concluding remarks.
You’ve been listening to an interview on Buddha at the Gas Pump. There have been well over 400 of them now and we’ll continue doing them. If you’d like to be notified of new ones, whenever they are posted, sign up for the email newsletter. You’ll get an email about once a week, or you could also subscribe on YouTube and I think YouTube will notify you whenever a new thing is posted. I won’t go through all the points of what’s on the BatGap website, just go there and check out the menu options. There’s an overview page actually that lists all the stuff. Check that out first, maybe, and then just see what interests you.
Thanks for listening or watching. Thanks again, Amoda.
Amoda Maa: Thank you, Rick, for your time and what you’re doing.
Rick Archer: Yes. It’s always a pleasure
Rick Archer: Yes, and thanks to those who have been listening and we’ll see you next week.