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Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer, and my guest this week is John Sherman. And before we introduce John more extensively, I let him introduce himself more extensively, I want to make just a few quick practical announcements. One is that if you’re watching this as a video, as opposed to listen to the audio, someone pointed out to me that I should maybe remind people that these are generally recorded at a higher resolution than the default one in YouTube. So if it says 360, down the bottom of your screen, and YouTube, bumped it up to 480, or 720, P, whichever is the highest. And then you click this little arrow thing that goes in both directions, and it zooms that out to full screen. So you’re gonna watch the video, you might as well watch in high resolution full screen. Second thing is that I have a page on the site called Upcoming guests. And if you go there, you’ll see who’s scheduled to be interviewed. And I want to invite people to recommend anyone that they would like to see interviewed, because that helps me to determine the how to prioritize people, if people get more recommendations, it’s like a vote and I bumped them up in the pecking order. And also, there on the upper right hand corner of the site, you’ll notice this donate buttons, obviously what that’s for, there’s a face book, thing, and it helps if more Facebook likes, as they call them, makes the site sort of more broader appeal comes to the more people’s attention. And the ultimate beneath that there’s a little plus one button, which is a new thing that Google has introduced. That’s kind of like the Facebook Like thing. And the more people that click that, the more it’s like a recommendation to your friends that you like the site and it’ll sort of come up more prominently in the search results and so on. So anyway, that’s that. So sorry about all that practical stuff, John, but I just wanted to get that out of the way and, and enable people to watch this in higher resolution if they can. So again, welcome and thank you for this opportunity.
John Sherman: I have very welcome thank you for this opportunity.
Rick Archer: Good. I usually like to let guests introduce themselves because they sort of know themselves better than I do. And so why don’t you give us a quick sketch of you know, who you are both in, you know, in the ordinary sense and what your your spiritual Odyssey has been?
John Sherman: That’s right,
Rick Archer: well, it doesn’t have to be a quick sketch we can spend plenty of time here the
John Sherman: In the ordinary in the ordinary sense of things. I’m a 68 year old man living in Ojai with my wife Carla and my cat sweaters happy as a clam. And I have in my past I was well I don’t I spent an awful lot of my life stupid
Rick Archer: here here didn’t we all?
John Sherman: and and it’s did some pretty things that are not commonplace and that are they’re out of the ordinary for people are doing their lives like oh, I don’t know like trying to overthrow capitalism and robbing banks and doing property damage to capitalist enterprises and escaping from prison and being in gunfights and getting shot and, and ending up on the FBIs 10. Most Wanted List. Were you part of the weatherman or something? No, we were I was part of a small group of strange mixture of people who the group was begun by a friend of mine from a long time ago in my first stint in a federal penitentiary. And we called ourselves the George Jackson brigade. And so anyway, we that was that was then this is now
Rick Archer: Yeah. God trying to entertain himself in extreme ways through the through the person of John Sherman. It’s interesting that you mentioned all that because I heard you mentioned on, you know, audios that I was listening to you had been in prison and you mentioned bank robbery, but I kind of was thinking to myself, I bet you there was some sort of, you know, social, altruistic, you know, however, warped motivation behind his doing that but he wasn’t just in it to rob banks to get money in his pocket, but he was trying to, you know, bring down the state or some such thing and so Fair enough. That’s what you just said.
John Sherman: Sure enough. There was a lot of that going on in those days. That was a wild card.
Rick Archer: Yeah, Symbionese Liberation Army and all those things. Okay, so you spent 16 years in prison and a 1818. Okay. And obviously, you know, as we just said, you there was, you know, however warped it may have been, there was some sort of higher motive for your for doing those things. But when did you actually kind of get an inkling of the spiritual dimension things as opposed to just smashing the political system?
John Sherman: Well, first of all, I’d like to clarify something I, it’s easy to think of what I was doing is being motivated by some higher motive
Rick Archer: higher, you know, broadly broadly defined, you
John Sherman: know, but actually, no, it was higher in a and I thought that I was very much persuaded that what I was doing was, was necessary, maybe not sufficient, but necessary to do something about the state of the world. Yeah. But that whole relationship with the state of the world, and my response to it was, as it always is, entirely in order to save myself, in order to do the right thing, to find the right thing to be to somehow become the right thing to be so that I would not get swallowed up by others this life really,
Rick Archer: the Beatles song revolution comes to mind.
John Sherman: You know? So it’s not it’s, it’s, it’s tempting for me to let slide the idea that I was more highly motivated, but it was just the same kind of neurotic, fearful, confused and miserable motivation that, that that drives most of us, no matter how extreme or ordinary our strategies become.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, I’ve heard it said that everybody’s doing the best they can and everybody’s doing what they think is, you know, the best thing that can be done, you know, but obviously, it gets very warped.
John Sherman: Everybody is doing the best they can that’s
Rick Archer: so obviously, being imprisoned must have given you time for reflection.
John Sherman: Okay, me. Time for reflection there. There’s a lot of things that happened, you know, you have to understand it in the first. The first time they managed to capture me, which was during a bank robbery when I was shot. I escaped pretty quickly after that, I think about six weeks later. And in a gunfight that the second time they managed to get a hold of me and sent me to the penitentiary. I escaped from there a couple months after maybe six months after I arrived. And that’s when I was added to the FBI stemless wine and missed
Rick Archer: that I want to divert this conversation too much. But how did you manage to escape from a federal penitentiary? I mean, it sounds like Shawshank Redemption or something.
John Sherman: It’s kind of a funny, kind of a funny story. I was me and my my one of my co defendants or tried in a better quite a large media trial in Seattle. For Oh, I forget how many counts a whole bunch of counts of different things that taken together would have everyone expected that the sentence would be like, tantamount to life, you know. And I’ve stacked up consecutive sentences to put me away for good. During the course of that trial, I had the opportunity to I, I actually defended myself and I had the opportunity to speak to the jury and the outcome was actually much different than people expected. But I had door I had attorney advisors there and during the trial, I had a got a young woman from who among the people that I knew on the streets to be appointed as a court appointed assistant. I wanted people to I wanted her to be able to go out and make crime scene drawings and things of that nature because we never tried to to pretend that we were not guilty of the crimes. We wanted to bring to the jury, the reasons that we did those and and so forth and so on. In any event, that woman who was appointed as a court appointed investigator for the defense we were married in the In the courthouse after the trial, and after the sentencing. And she went to Lompoc with me, she went moved to Lompoc. And all the time it was our intention that I would escape from Lompoc. And we, after some failed investigations into possibilities, I discovered that I could if I, if I made my eye look sufficiently injured, I could have myself taken down to downtown Lompoc, to the ophthalmologists there. And after a number of trips there on the ACT, what was to be the last trip? The woman brought a gun to the autumn ologies office and put it in the bathroom and got the gun and used it to persuade those guards to
Rick Archer: how long did it take him to catch you after that?
John Sherman: Two and a half years? Wow, that’s, that’s amazing. I was working at the time in Golden Colorado, working at Sun strain, which is a big aerospace company, I have a background in machine. And I actually became involved in a very, extremely dramatic effort to unionize that company. And, and to prevent them from running away to Iowa in those days running away was going to right to work state not going to China, right. And I was fired and ended up with a pretty large award by the National Labor Relations Board, where I had to go periodically to attain hearings and so forth, which was of course in the same building as the FBI. So that’s
Rick Archer: you just couldn’t leave well enough.
John Sherman: But then that caught me. And I spent the then that that was the last time there was more I went ahead and spent another 17 or so years in federal prisons here and there around the country. And Aaron, so, when
Rick Archer: did you finally get out? In
John Sherman: 98 I was set to the halfway house in spring of 98 Okay, so
Rick Archer: about 1213 years ago. And I understand that while in prison, you kind of got bitten by the nonduality bug and started reading a lot of books and stuff like that,
John Sherman: I did, I actually, you know, I was as a child, I was brought up by my grandmother who was a holy ghost Pentecostal Christian. And from the beginning, my inclination had been pretty consistently towards some religious or spiritual or solution to things which was somewhat sidetracked when I discovered the magnificent presentation of Marx and Engels and Lenin. So, I had always had a deep a deep sense that the that like, I wasn’t smart enough to know even what it is I thought would happen as a result of it, but that there was something in the realm of outside of the ordinary experience of life, that that was important and that I wanted to, to gain access to in prison. And I also in the same kind of strangely, in the same vein, I also was very much interested in philosophy, which is a similar approach to the problem of being human as other spiritual approaches. What I when I was in prison, the nagging sense that that there was something somewhere to be found that would, that would solve their this strange case of being a human being and the fact that being a human being was so sucky. It just does not work and it is not satisfactory when it seems like it promises so much.
Rick Archer: Like the saying goes, you know, life sucks, then you die.
John Sherman: Yeah, that’s it. And in the course of that, and in the course of studying some more philosophy, and at one point I actually converted to Roman Catholicism was in prison. I was complete. I was a sucker for anything. Yeah, well What What attracted me and in Roman Catholicism was the deep mysticism of the whole thing there was, there’s this mysteriousness to it that isn’t present so much in the Protestant Christianity. And then I suppose you’d like me to tell you how this all came about this? Sure. God, I’ve told this story like a gazillion times, and a lot of
Rick Archer: people listening to this won’t have heard it. So
John Sherman: in 1994, I was, you know, when you’re in the federal prison system, especially if you’re a notorious escape risk, such as myself, they move you from prison to prison for the entire time you’re
Rick Archer: there. So you don’t learn the tricks of how to get out of opportunity.
John Sherman: And you don’t get you know, to make contacts and, and establish relationships with the staff and things of that nature. Yeah. So that the longest I stayed in any one prison during that period was three years. And often it was two years and in 94, I ended up in Englewood, Colorado, in federal prison, there actually seems a little bit in scald, Englewood, but it’s in Littleton, Colorado. And in 94, by the time I had, by the time 94, had come around, I had pretty much rid myself of the interest in spiritual solutions and previous solutions and philosophical solutions, and had settled down just to two to jail, and, and, and, you know, to be comfortable as I could we
Rick Archer: feeling frustrated and miserable in there, or had you were you sort of in the present, just kind of go on with it every day?
John Sherman: Well, I had, by the time in 94, I was, I was happy enough I had established had become very proficient with computers, and which, you know, that was in the early days of computers. Yeah. And, and in so doing, I made myself valuable to the people who ran what’s called the facility departments, which are the departments that take care of the maintenance of the institution, you know, the plumbing and all that stuff. And so I was pretty, I was pretty comfortable. I was not too unhappy. I was playing tennis a lot, enjoying myself. And then one day, this friend of mine, who was who was taken by the Eastern Ancient Wisdom Teachings himself, there’s in prison, you find a lot of interest in religion and spiritual teachings. It’s, it’s a natural fit. Yeah. And he came to me and told me asked me if I wanted to come and see God, he
Rick Archer: was I wasn’t Kenny Johnson by any chance, was it? No, it was not. Okay.
John Sherman: I am Alan. Okay. Who later was transferred and so forth. But anyway, he came to me and asked me if I would like to come in and see Ganga G and I had no idea who Gaga Ji was I probably couldn’t have pronounced it correctly even. And he told me that she was this this kind of gorgeous blonde Southern woman with esoteric teaching from India. And you know, when the what what could be bad about that, right. Yeah. So I decided, I said, Yes, I’ll go because it happened in the time that I was supposed to go i i got a little sick, and I decided not to go and just blew the whole thing off. But then, having been exposed to that, I learned that there’s the people. The guy who had invited me to it was part of a Buddhist group who people were coming in from the ropa, which is in Boulder, Colorado Institute founded by Trump by Rinpoche and they were coming in from Boulder to teach Tibetan Buddhism to prisoners in in Florida or in Angola. And I started going to see them and I was really quite stunned to find that and you know, like in that and Tibetan Buddhism, when the, the lay people are, are transmitting the teachings, right, what they basically do is read the teachings and like that 12 steps that conditional arising and this and that and the other thing. And I was shocked and really quite stunned to have the sense that I knew all of that, that everything they said, was extremely familiar to me. It was like, it was like, wow, I knew that. That’s that’s, that makes sense. Now there’s some stuff that makes sense. It rings true to me. So I became quite taken by Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the flavor of Trungpa Rinpoche, which is, which is different, a little different from, from most, he wasn’t as Reverend and so forth, as most spiritual people are,
Rick Archer: is he the one who died of alcoholism or somesuch? There?
John Sherman: It’s hard to say what he died. And there’s a lot of ways about it. He was a character anyway. So he was a he was a controversial character, right. And so I started going to the Buddhists and they were very taken with me, they thought I was some kind of a previously unsuspected talk or something. In this prison, and they brought in a Tibetan Lama who gave me refuge and Bodie, software valves. And I was persuaded, I was pretty much persuaded. I mean, you have to know that until very recently, actually, everything that I was persuaded to, I was persuaded to with a certain skepticism, a certain background of skepticism, a willingness to see that this tool was all fraudulent and fake, like, everything else was that I had tried. Yeah. But still, I was quite taken. And I was really interested in it. And it drew my interest into other spiritual teachings, and their writings, and, and, and, and so forth. So that Gaga Ji then returned to the prison in June of 94. The first visit was in September of 93, the one that I didn’t go to, she returned to June of 94. And by that time, I was kind of the guy that took care of the exotic Eastern spiritual types, you know, and they got like the guy was who initially invited me to, to meet her. So I was responsible for getting that all together into for letting the peep the prisoners, no prisoners who were interested, know the date and time. And then I was responsible for setting up the chapel for her and meeting her and bringing her in and showing her what the arrangements were so forth. I had, of course, contact with people, throughout the time that I was a Buddhist, who were in love with Gangaji. And my, my role, my role with them mostly wish to tell them that they were crazy that way, I don’t know what she’s up to. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s not, there’s nothing for you to do. There’s nothing for you to get so forth and so on. This is a serious business and it takes commitment and long time practice with conviction and commitment. And when Gangaji came, I had a really powerful experience of the stopping of the endless story about things and what I’m doing and why I’m doing it so forth.
Rick Archer: You go up on the stage and have a one on one with her like some people do in her things. Are you just sitting in the audience?
John Sherman: No, this is when I met her at the door,
Rick Archer: okay, just initially,
John Sherman: right in that moment, and my initial intention was to show her around and then go play tennis. But that was blown away and I became, I fell in love with her, and I embarked upon a year and a half, deep deep love of God and and of the, of the teaching that she espouses, or espouse then in any event I
Rick Archer: did they let you bring in all kinds of books and videos and stuff like that to watch in the prison?
John Sherman: Books can come in videos and so forth can be watched in the chapel and things of that nature. But I during that period, I became really quite familiar with the Ancient Wisdom Teachings from India. All I was, I was hungry for to understand to get the sense of well All this was about and in ways that now seem a little mysterious books that are would be unexpected to ever find in a prison environment came to me and books on SOG Chen books on the Upanishads books on all all of that wild stuff. So I became quite well informed and quite deeply invested in that particular path. I spent a year of what I have come to call Enlightenment, just as a catchphrase just I spent a year of in a state of clarity and, and non dual consciousness and, and, and bliss.
Rick Archer: I heard you mentioned on one of your recordings, did that just sort of come upon you suddenly one day?
John Sherman: Well, it came upon me what I thought at the time it came upon me suddenly, in the moment that I met.
Rick Archer: Oh, just that moment. Okay. So from the moment you met her, you were in this sort of non blissful state.
John Sherman: Yes, that’s right.
Rick Archer: Okay.
John Sherman: And, and she said,
Rick Archer: You’ve been actually you’ve been doing a kind of a meditation practice as a part of the Naropa. Teachers, right? Yeah. Okay.
John Sherman: And the, and we started writing to each other, and I wrote her pretty much every day. And she wrote back almost every day, we had a, quite a intense and energetic and wonderful relationship in that way. And it went on for a year or so. And then my so called Enlightenment collapsed.
Rick Archer: Just out of the blue one day, you’re brushing your teeth or something and all sudden, boom, it’s gone.
John Sherman: Well, no, not quite like that. It was more the fact that I became I got it turned out that it wasn’t true that there was nothing I want it. It turned out that that was actually something that I had just made up. That was revealed itself when I met a woman who was close to God and the God who got on my visitors list started coming in to visit me and we became involved in a romantic relationship. You can do that in prison. You can do it anywhere in the world. It’s all in the mind. Right?
Rick Archer: Okay. So yeah, the heart’s kind of woke up there. Yeah, we were,
John Sherman: you know, we we visited quite often, probably at least once a week and talked on the phone all the time. And she was very close to God energy. And, and, at one point, she went to Gaga tree and told her what had happened. Oh, this woman was married. Oh, I see. And Gangotri became infuriated and wrote me a letter, you know, that was full of fury. And yeah, and, and I everything just turned. Turned rottenness,
Rick Archer: essentially it caused your whole non dual thing to just collapse, right. So now has had her own share of marital difficulties and as yours that’s, yeah, it’s not relevant.
John Sherman: The, the, the, the, the pain and confusion and pain that commenced, when that occurred, was worse than anything I’d ever experienced the psychological and psychological pain that attended that chanted the loss of the Enlightenment that what was stated what I felt was the refutation of the whole, non dual aspiration. The pain of it was terrible was horrible.
Rick Archer: Did you lose faith in Ganga tea? Or was it more like you just your experience collapsed and so that made you feel
John Sherman: oh, I lost? I lost faith in me. Yeah, no, I had some. You know, there was a inclination to project some of that on Ganga Ji, but, but mostly I just lost faith in me. It just was like, I was wrong again. I went down that road before I’ve gone down that road again. And here I am. even worse place at the end of this one that I have ever been in my life.
Rick Archer: Now, certainly in your reading, you must have run across the idea that awakenings can be, you know, intermittent before they eventually become permanent. I mean that a lot of people say that, yes, but
John Sherman: of course, the the, the, that rational understanding of those things is secondary, and of no importance has no mitigating effect whatsoever. On the psychological and that whole, the pain.
Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s not much solace under this.
John Sherman: There’s not, there’s no solace in that, right. There was no solace in any of that stuff. It was all revealed to me in those times to be just a false trail. But so I was left still not as left without any sense that there was any hope, at all, anywhere to be found. But still, with that deep desire to find a solution to this unsatisfactoriness of being a human bear. A deep, deep yearning that had always been present. And now is kind of ripped open and, and worse than it had ever been.
Rick Archer: Wow, that’s a quandary. I mean, no hope. And yeah, yeah, you’re yearning to sort it out.
John Sherman: And that yearning I think, is pretty universal, it may be overlooked, and, and dampened down, you know, and most of us for most of our lives through it, otherwise, we couldn’t get by. Right. Yeah. But I decided that in the, in the, in the wake of that destruction of everything that same be worthwhile at all, I decided that what I had to get rid of what I what really had to happen was not to find some new solution to the problem. But to get rid of the idea that there was any solution to the problem, to get rid of this yearning, this, this hopeless, stupid yearning for some solution to the problem. So I thought, well, if I can find some recommended thing to do, and do it, and get no result, no satisfactory result from it, then that’ll put an end to this journey.
Rick Archer: Hmm, well, you’re already pretty disillusioned. But what you’re saying is you wanted to add another layer of dust. That was
John Sherman: their solution, right? I wanted to find something that made sense to me, that was different from the rest of it. But that somehow was connected to the rest of it made sense to me and gave me something to do, not just something to understand or to feel or to, you know, to hit that, but something to do. So that in the doing of it, I could prove to myself that there’s nothing here at all, there’s no anywhere to be found. So fully
Rick Archer: expecting your hopes to be dashed. Once again, you you sought for some new thing.
John Sherman: And I turned and I turned to the actually, and this is kind of strange, a little bit. But I turned to Ramana.
Rick Archer: Archie, whom you all had already been reading, oh, I
John Sherman: had read it and kind of just discarded as, as too simple. I didn’t know what he was about. I know he was like the God of Gangaji and Papaji.
Rick Archer: Right. He’s the grandfather of the whole mother non dual thing.
John Sherman: I couldn’t say much to him. I mean, who am I? What do I mean? What is that? That’s nothing. So long before I ever actually got into trying to study or to actually deeply investigate what it is that Ramana was saying or suggesting to us. I dismissed it and went on to, you know, bigger things like yoga position, persister and the Upanishads. And, and all of that. And I came back to Ramana. Then, because I he among he was different than anybody else. He really was he had no teacher, he was not spiritual. The thing that he did that as best he could describe it as a 16 year old boy was to pretend to be dead. And yet despite his idiosyncratic nature, he was Robert as a as the as Bhagavan has gotten in form.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And I recall that story about him pretending to be dead it was it was not sort of like you know, one day is out and cricket and he decides, I think I’ll go in and pretend to be dead. But he felt this sort of death coming upon him did he not, and it was some sort of ego death that was starting to percolate. And he just rather than fighting it, he surrendered to
John Sherman: it, it’s actually much more commonplace than that. Okay, his, his father died suddenly, unexpectedly, at the age of 42, the year before, here is a 16 year old boy and adolescent boy, whose father has just died without warning, just dropped dead a year before. So that shook him. And his actual account of it, while I’m speaking from his accounts of that had it was that that produced in him this kind of lingering involvement with the idea of death, and, and it was in the course of that, which was not spiritual, had nothing to do with ego whatsoever, or anything of the kind, it was the ordinary thing, that one might expect an adolescent boy whose father had died suddenly and unexpectedly, to go through really enhanced uncertainty about his own existence. So and he did, what he did was he lay down, because he, he, because of that fear of death, because it became so big in him, he decided to try to do something about it by pretending to be dead. He laid down, he pretended that the body was dying, he actually went to the the extreme of pretending to be to have rigor mortis set in stiffened his body, he imagined the body being carried to the, to the burning, got to be cremated. And, and in the aftermath of that experience, what he said was, that the only thing that remained was the force of personality. This is a shocking thing for most people in the Advaita community to hear. The only thing remained Ramana tells us is the force of personality. What did he mean by that? Well, that’s for something, you could find that out for yourself. That’s what my point. Yeah, but and he went to tear of anomaly. And this, again, is his own account of things. He wanted to tear of anomaly because he couldn’t figure out what had happened to him. And he wanted to know, so he wanted to tear of anomaly. He had heard of terrible anomaly from an uncle as a, as a place that was a place where you could do stuff like that. He went to tear of anomaly in order to try to find out by reading the scriptures and the text and all the sutras and the shastras, to find out what had happened to him.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so what had happened to him means that, you know, this statement that the only thing that remained was the force of personality, he had undergone a profound shift of some kind, that’s right. And his, in his words, the only thing left after that shift was the force of personality, whatever that means, exactly,
John Sherman: whatever that means, which was interesting conundrum. Yeah. So, and he also tells us that he stopped speaking, but not he told people or he indicated to people it was because of the vow of silence, but rate which was called Mona in the, in the, in the practices, but really, he tells us that he took no such value, he just didn’t want to talk to anybody, right. So, I just stopped talking for 12 years, he had a close friend, who would bring him books and and so forth, to the temple interior of anomaly, so that he steeped himself in this, these teachings. And which certainly formed his certainly shaped his capacity to understand what had happened to he, he took on board, that entire body of work, kind of, pertaining to what the nature of reality is, and how this, how this would impinge upon his experiences and so forth. Finally, they tracked him down and, and kind of took him captive and, and build an ashram around him all the time. He was complaining, not complaining, you know, terribly, but you know, just saying, I, I don’t know what to do. I tell them I don’t want this and they do it anyway. You know, I tell them not to do this when they do it. Anyway, what is there to do? Now, without going into a lot more detail about Raman, his role and the things he did in the time that he was in the app for the ashram there? I determined that rom On a more than anybody else I knew actually had tried to tell us something practical to do not something, you know, like by getting a transmission or by by some new transcendent arrival of the state, but give us something practical to do, which he tried to communicate by this whole insistence on for whom you are full of bliss, who for whom is this bliss? For whom is his sorrow, for whom is this and that the other thing? So, I thought that that gave me a hint as to what I should do, I should find, for whom is this, I should actually try the practice of who am I? What is the word? Who am I?
Rick Archer: Oh, who am I? Yes, yes, yes,
John Sherman: Vichara.
Rick Archer: So, the word Vichara a means self inquiry, is that, right?
John Sherman: It does sort of I mean, VHR is actually quite a interesting word it means there’s several pages if you look on the web for a definition of each are there several pages of a real popery of schooling situations, choose for poor in ordinary life or choose in spiritual life, but at the end, it seems to devolve down to the idea of investigation, some Inquiry into the Nature of something good. But trying to do that, I discovered if if I say Who am I, if I am trying to find a way to to actually do Romanus suggestion, it turns out to be not quite so easy as it sounds when you first hear. I mean, yeah, right. What What, Where do I look? What am I? What? Where do I look? So Ramana gave a couple of suggestions from time to time, right? None of which proved to be very helpful to me. But I was at the time now I’m in prison, I really now I’d have no job. I was actually finally, the federal prison system, established a policy that no prisoner who knew anything about computers could be working on computers and, and one of the things I do another and I ended up with, forbidden to be within 50 yards of any computer, I never did anything wrong. I was always, you know, just doing my job, but against the rules. And I was ended up with I couldn’t be within 50 feet of a computer and was really narrowed my job opportunities within the prison, right. So that I ended up with a job where I was cleaning the bathroom, in the staff lounge, which took about a half hour every morning. And the rest of my time was empty of any I could do anything I want to within the, within the confines of the rules of the prisons, so So I had a lot of time to fixate and get obsessed with this whole business of who am I and I did fix it and became obsessed with it excuse me I would I remember a Ramona once said to someone, you should. And this was another thing that recommended him to me because it is so what’s the worst the word heretical in the non dual arena, he would say to people, You should grab ego by the throat should get a hold of ego, grab it by the throat, hold on to it don’t let go. And that was so out of out of so radical that I tried to do that I would sit and I would try to find some sensation within the body that seemed to be this infantile, ignorant child that wanted to be wanted to have everything and I would get my attention on it and hold it tight and I would chant kind of to die, die. And I would try other things all the time. I’m trying to look in and I’m trying to get a glimpse of what it is he’s talking about. I’m trying to get an answer to the question who am I? Really no such answer ever presented itself to jump ahead. But different things happened I had different experiences. I had experiences that were quite startling and quite sweet and and so forth and and in the event the Nothing happened. Except that everything kind of got easier. Over time, I noticed that that’s my relationship with my life was changing. I had no idea why that would be I had no, no new, you know, transcendental experiences or transformation or anything I life was life, just as it always is. But my relationship to intuit had changed dramatically. I had no where whereas previously, and of course, it’s in retrospect that I am describing this at the time it was, much of it was hidden to me what was happening. But it but whereas before, I would hold my life at arm’s length, I was, you know, there was a sense of something out there that could be threatening to me that could cause me great harm. At the same time, as this yearning told me, there was something out there that could give me what I’ve always wanted and clear everything up once and for all. That whole relationship with life went away. And the whole sense of being distant, and a victim of my own life went away. And things calm down over time. And eventually, I was released from prison. And when I was released from prison, I went, I was in Boulder, Colorado, and I and they gauger, she hired me at the Ganga G foundation, so that I would have a job to come out to when I went out of prison. Kenny Johnson, by the way, is a different story. But right, but so I worked for Ganga G for a while until nine,
Rick Archer: she forgave you for that affair.
John Sherman: Oh, yeah. She forgave. she’s a she’s a forgiving girl.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
John Sherman: And people started coming to me and wanting me to do Satsang. And I didn’t want to do it. I mean, I, I, I did not have a way of exactly defining why it is that I didn’t want to do it. But I just didn’t want to do it.
Rick Archer: Did you feel qualified? I mean, did you feel like you had something to offer?
John Sherman: No, I didn’t. I, I felt like I couldn’t do anything more than everybody else in this realm was doing already.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Why should you add your voice if there’s people like Gangaji sitting there who can maybe do it better? You know, it’s not
John Sherman: right. And I had lost, I actually had lost the sense that the, that the what happens in the realm of Satsang was of no use to anybody. And I had no sense. Because of that. It was because of that, that I had no feeling that I had anything to offer anybody
Rick Archer: I see. Okay, didn’t it make your job kind of meaningless working for Congress?
John Sherman: But all jobs are kind of you needed a job? Yeah, I used to be a machinist. It was pretty meeting. Yeah,
Rick Archer: sure.
John Sherman: So that people would want me to talk to them. And I would talk to people as best I could. And always dissatisfied with the, with the new that that whatever was I was trying to say I wasn’t saying, using the same vernacular that was used in the non dual teachings that somehow I could not say what I was trying to say, using that vernacular, although I tried. Well, in 99, in June of 99, I married my wife, Cara, who kind of saved my life in a very real way. and continues to do so I might add. And we both add that I was fired by the Ganga G foundation because of the economic problems that they had. Right? So now, and Karla, of course, is from Brazil. And I don’t know if you knew that or not, but
Rick Archer: I knew she was thrown out. Yeah. And she speaks a lot of languages and she’s a good translator. And
John Sherman: yeah, and, and she. She went when we married. You know, it was a couple of years before she got her citizenship. Now she’s a citizen, but when we married, when we married, she was at a green card. And we were trying to find a way to make a living when Gandhiji had fired us right? Or made anyway, she didn’t work or trying to find a way to make a living. And she is as you point out a translator with considerable experience and breadth of proficiency in that realm. And I said I had some have familiarity with computers and whole thing and even a little bit with the web. Although not in prison, but after I got out, I thought that maybe I could do something this was at the height at the very crest of the.com. Boom. So I thought maybe we should start a business for making websites. Net, we were not interested at all, in making a living by doing sattwa. And we so we started a company called NorthBay, webs and made a few websites for people, we started a company called Sherman translations, which is still in existence. And Carla did some magnificent translations and saved us from from hunger and homelessness more than once, but we could not possibly make enough money to support ourselves in those endeavors. That just wasn’t happening. And people were still asking us to come and do sattwa. So I went to do Satsang people wanted to hear me talk. And they donated money to us, and I didn’t do anything. I never deceived people I never, you know, tried to get more money from or anything else. But the the trickle of money that came from the donations and Satsang plus the trickle of money that came from translations and other things that we were trying to do, kept us afloat, you know, so that we could pay our bills, pay the rent, and feed ourselves and so forth, and go to the next to go to the next invitation to do sattwa. So we started doing Satsang is pretty much our primary means you’re making a living. And during that period of time, that period of time lasted until at least until 2006, where I really didn’t feel I was doing anybody any good. And I really didn’t feel like I was ever say I I felt like there was something there that I really wanted to convey to people. But I was convinced that I could not do so I tried and couldn’t people hurt.
Rick Archer: Did you tell them those things when you did Satsang? Do you say I’m not doing? Can’t say what I want to say
John Sherman: I’m notorious for that. Okay, that’s actually I did, I whined and complained about it constantly. And so that went on and and all the time I was I was really trying, I had the sense that I had something that I wanted to say that there was something that that I that I could offer to people, but I couldn’t find a way to, to vocal and to verbalize it to make it into language that trapped as I seem to be in the vernacular of spiritual, non dual understanding and spiritual exploration. And that whole realm of activity, which I could see did not convey what I was trying to say. And I could see it, because I could see people heard different things and what I was trying to say. So I try. And I saw that period as a time when the responsibility I had to the people who were supporting us was to use that time, as best I could to learn how to speak about what I really wanted to speak about, by trying to do it in conversation with them. 2006 We went to Chicago on the way back from having to wait on trip to Chicago. And on the way back from Chicago, we stopped in Boulder, which were many of our friends still live and people knew us and knew everything about us. We stopped in Boulder to do Satsang and I, we we did a sad time which later we called Escape from the spiritual getup. And it was that that that time that I felt like something had broken loose, and that there was a possibility of a actually getting to the point where I could speak about what I wanted to speak about 2007 It became clear to me that, that that that was going to happen. I still had no sense that I actually had I had gotten to the point where speaking clearly and directly enough to be of use to people, except some people were helped by it. Some people could hear it, you know, underneath the the vocabulary that I didn’t know how to get rid of. And because of that because we were convinced that we had finally shown ourselves that we actually were going to do To be able, at the end to say what we wanted to say, we stopped charging fees for anything. For the first time, I felt like something was being communicated that actually was of help to people, although still encumbered by the, the language, and so forth, and I thought, well, I don’t want to make, I want to be able to speak about this to everybody, whether they can or are willing to or not pay to hear. So we start charging fees for retreats and, and some of the other things we used to charge fees for. That, so from from that time from 2007, on, beginning with the 2007 retreat, the 2007 retreat, by the way, is the is the basis for the book that we have our called Look at yourself. That book is very, very skillfully and carefully edited, and, and, and so forth. It consists in, in conversations that I had with people, but it’s very well edited, and it’s not. And people have found great value in it. Which always comes as a surprise to me. And so it was a 2003 2007 retreat, we do a retreat every year here in Ojai in November 2007 Retreat finally became the book, look at yourself. And we continued over the next several however many years, it’s been since 2007, trying to speak more clearly trying to be more to the point trying to get rid of the spiritual vocabulary, which, which is a hindrance, it’s really hard to speak about anything to, especially to just ordinary people. Within that vernacular, I don’t have a against any of it. It’s just, I couldn’t make it work.
Rick Archer: Right. It wasn’t your terminology, it was just, you needed terminology that sort of was age and
John Sherman: just speak directly from my parents to people not exactly, not through detail.
Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s really laudable. I mean, there’s a lot of people that are good at parenting, the terminology, but you wonder whether it jives with their own experience, you know.
John Sherman: And then finally, now, bringing us back to the present i in retreat last year, November of 2010, everything kind of broke loose, all the remaining detritus of my vast spiritual understanding kind of broke loose and became flotsam and jetsam and, and still circles around a little bit because there’s no trouble. So that now, and And now, what we have, the state of our work now is summed up in those two documents, the fear of life. And the simple act of it, we’re looking to snuffs it out, in which I set out what I am convinced is the actual cause of the misery of being human, actual cause. And the second document is the way forward in which we set out the, the, our determination to find a way to bring this simple suggestion to look at you, just the look at yourself, to bring this simple suggestion to the ears of a large enough body of human beings to tip the balance from our endless rush toward insanity. Back to a a world that leads to Saturday more sanity, rather than more insanity. We don’t need any more than Saturday.
Rick Archer: Now got enough. All right, well, now I’ve read both those documents, but most of our listeners will not have. And so let’s delve into what they say. I have a lot of questions, I think and you got a lot to say. So I suppose they you want to start with the first one about you know, what this looking at yourself is? And then you know, we can talk about the sort of implications of having it go global on a larger scale. Incidentally, you know, you talk a lot about fear. And I don’t know if you’ve heard this but there’s a line in the apana shots it says certainly all fear is born of duality. I don’t know the Sanskrit for it, but well maybe that could be a springboard
John Sherman: now. This is a really this is a really interesting I haven’t heard that. But this is a really interesting point here because actually, I hear that and that’s the truth. Yeah, everyone hears the truth. All software He was born of fear, which is born of duality. Yeah. But to say that conveys something entirely different than the reality that it is that it’s trying to communicate, it conveys something that says, duality is the problem. What needs to happen here is to rid ourselves of the sense of separation of the sense of being separate individuals in a ocean of other separate individuals and other things. That that’s the problem. That, that, that that and that, in fact, that is explicitly stated in most of the kind of advanced Wisdom Teachings to beat the case, that the sense of separation, but then it morphs into not the sense of separation, but the sense of being a separate individual is the problem. So that what we’re seeking to do is to eliminate that sense that I am a separate individual. But if I eliminate the sense that I am a separate individual, then there is no one here to truly, to receive anything, experience anything, want anything, not want anything, be satisfied with anything, understand anything, be confused by anything, be attracted and enchanted by anything, that whole array of human experience is, is anathema.
Rick Archer: And a lot of teachers will say something just like that, you know, they’ll say, Well, you know, I may appear to be wanting and needing and experiencing, and you know, doing this and doing that, but there actually is no one here to whom that is happening. It’s just happening without there being, you know, subject to whom it’s happening. You’ve heard that kind of talk, I’m sure.
John Sherman: I probably have even regurgitated that kind of talk in the past yourself. Yeah. And and I’m not understand something. I am not what the work that I’m doing here, and Carla and I are doing here is not in opposition to spiritual teachers, right. So not we’re not trying to dissuade people from their, their, their love for and their involvement with spiritual teachings, Ancient Wisdom Teachings, non dual teachings, anything of the kind. And the reason for that is because that’s not the problem. The problem is not like it like what I say to be the case is that we have been on the wrong trail, that that, and that there have been a handful of people over the five 6000 years since we’ve, we as a species, first started turning inward, trying to find a way to make human life palatable. There have been a mere handful of smattering of people, that there have been some really, truly who authentically have have stumbled upon what Ramana calls the natural state, which is the state of being human, I
Rick Archer: stumbled upon it quite accidentally, almost very accidentally,
John Sherman: and of course, have other practices and so forth and so on. And without and without knowing exactly what happened to them. Right. They just were in the midst of doing what they were doing. Maybe they were in the midst of an intense spiritual practice, maybe not. But they were in the midst of doing what they’re doing. And and the problem went away. Yeah, no, I’ve
Rick Archer: interviewed I’ve interviewed people like that, who had no prior interest in any of this. And, you know, woke up one morning and everything was different. I mean, you know, obviously, Byron, Katie and Eckhart Tolle are examples of that. Yes,
John Sherman: that’s right. Yeah. So not knowing in a way that, you know, in any way, exactly what had happened to them, and being either at the time or subsequently, as a result, being involved in the Ancient Wisdom Teachings, just like Ramana, the only vert vocabulary vernacular that they could find, which seemed to be to the point of what had happened to them. Was that vocabulary vernacular of the ancient non dual Wisdom Teachings present in the Upanishads. And the developments from the upon the shot.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and a lot of the guys who wrote those didn’t necessarily stumble upon it accidentally, they may have studied under a guru and gone through a rigorous discipline, formal discipline of some sort and arrived at some realization.
John Sherman: Right, but once again, accidentally, not as a result of the formal spiritual disciplines.
Rick Archer: That’s a whole topic of our discussion.
John Sherman: What I’m suggesting is that that that’s likely an explanation is the other explanation that both of those the both of those things, either one of those things could be true about the origin of the Upanishad as far as State columns. Okay. So for all those 1000s of years, we have a handful of people who have somehow stumbled upon reality, somehow God, yeah.
Rick Archer: Handful relative to the total population relative to the
John Sherman: total population of 100 million people that walk the face of the earth. Right? Right. Right, there might be a million of them still on the bucket. Yeah, drop in the bucket. And, and they are consistent and try, it seems to me, mostly as the as the way in which they try to be helpful to the rest of us, there is a desire to be helpful. Naturally, that desire arise arises from the natural uncovering of the phenomenon of compassion, which is the awareness of suffering at everybody. It’s not like we have twisted compassion into something we do or something we feel but it’s really just the constant presence of the misery of human consciousness is what compassion is. And it produces the the natural inclination to want to be helpful to want to help people, and so forth. So, since they did not exactly know what had happened to them, what they had done, what they have mostly done for us over these millennia, is describe to us what it’s like to be free of whatever it is that causes this trouble. Describe
Rick Archer: it agree with that. I mean, let me just interject quickly. There’s there’s a lot of that going on, historically, and contemporaneously, there’s a lot of people just sort of describing their state and offering that that description as a prescription, presumably, people who’ve been pretty good at actually providing, you know, instructions, Do this, do this, do this, and it’ll, you know, kind of make you more Suzuki Roshi said, you know, spiritual Enlightenment may be an accident, but spiritual practice makes you accident prone. And there have been some pretty good instructions to make people accident prone over the course of history, perhaps
John Sherman: so except not so much, Rick, because the when you look at the actual numbers of the people who have benefited from that, we say that those instructions actually haven’t had much widespread effect.
Rick Archer: Again, you know, relative to the total population, total possible, there’s always been a handful who have interest in this kind of thing even right. Yeah. So at least on this planet,
John Sherman: so what we hear whatever the and I am totally convinced that all of these people are, are authentic, and sincere, and, and probably are themselves aware of their shortcomings and being able to be helpful to people. Yeah. But what we hear is what we should be, we should be not resistant, we should get rid of resistance, we should not be, you know, reactive, we should not be, we should not believe our thoughts we should this. These are the things that the characteristics that we should seek in order to be free of the problem of being human.
Rick Archer: It’s the man on the mountaintop describing his perspective, from that vantage point. shutting it down to people who aren’t on the mountaintop.
John Sherman: Oh, well intended. Yeah, yeah. All right. And, and it’s not like, it’s not like they got to choose, oh, I can tell them something really straight and plain, or I can tell them this flowery stuff that doesn’t do him any good. It’s just like, just like with me, just like with me, I couldn’t find any way to speak in that vernacular that said anything useful to anybody at all. But that’s the only vernacular I had at my disposal. Right. Okay. So, what was it? What brought me to that?
Rick Archer: Well, you’re talking about sort of, you know, the, this small percentage of people throughout history who have you’ve even kind of stumbled upon this, and how they, their tendency has been to describe the state they’re in and of how that is of dubious value for those who would aspire to be in the same state.
John Sherman: So they’re on the right track. And the whole thing about the thing about the Upanishad that you quoted about duality being the cause of the fear, and so forth, that’s on the right track. Even the idea that that separation is the problem is on the right track. But the problem is that when we hear this business about separation, we go straight to know me. It’s not the problem is, is is is me, it’s me being a separate individual, if I were not a separate individual, everything It would be right. If the whole crazy failed experiment of self consciousness or to disappear, everything would be good. Well, I think the problem is problem separation, too. But I don’t think the problem is the is the actual nature of life itself, which is the arising of this parade of phenomena, this ocean of phenomena that is, existence, itself, expressing itself.
Rick Archer: If that’s a problem, we’re in trouble, because that’s something that, you know,
John Sherman: that’s right, that’s a problem, we’re in deep trouble. And the problem is not that I perceive that as one of a separate, separate thing, within this ocean of separate things. That’s not the problem. That’s the gift. To me. That’s the awakening, that the arrival of the vivid, vigorous sense of self consciousness in the human creature is THE AWAKENING IS THE AWAKENING to this magnificent display of existence, which is impossible if I am not conscious of being or at least have the experience of being a separate, separate, arising within this ocean of separate arise.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so maybe we can let me just clarify what you’re saying here. Are you saying that perhaps, dogs, for instance, don’t have a real self conscious awareness of being a separate entity, but human here at the level of human consciousness, we’ve sort of individuated more consciously, and, you know, we are aware of our separate nature as individuals. But, but that sort of leaves us in a state of fear, because we’re there, we’re somehow estranged from our, our, our fundamental unity with with the source of everything is, does that at all? Go ahead
John Sherman: Not exactly.
Rick Archer: Okay. Just taking a stab at it.
John Sherman: Yeah, I think what happens is this, and I, you know, this, I suppose that this I will adjust this over time, you know, to reflect a deeper understanding of what it is that I’m actually trying to say. But here’s what I actually think happens. I think that human beings are, are uniquely self conscious within, in our, in our world and our planet. Yeah, there are other creatures that have degrees have this sense of awareness of themselves, but it’s nowhere near the sharpness and vividness and vigorousness that the human self consciousness is,
Rick Archer: Right, by virtue of the sophistication and complexity of our nervous system.
John Sherman: Yeah, right, exactly
Rick Archer: The brain and so on.
John Sherman: Exactly. So here we are. We, we are created by the biological processes, and then we spend all of our life in the world. Comfortable, at ease. Nothing happened. No cold, no hot, no, no hunger, no fear, just the soothing rhythm of the mother’s heartbeat, rocking in the amniotic biotic fluid, amniotic fluid, everything good, everything wonderful. And then
Rick Archer: unless our mother happens to be a meth addict or something,
John Sherman: right. That’s a special, special sorter. Yeah, lecture. And then all of a sudden, without warning, I mean, we’ve been that way our whole lives. There’s never been a time where we have not been just at peace and warm and happy and comfortable. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, comes this explosion of horrifying, violent, wild experience. We are expelled from the womb. God knows what that feels like. The actual exposure cell where
Rick Archer: it says area and myself, so I kind of missed out on that part of it.
John Sherman: But there’s that we’re expelled from the womb into a world of cold and hot and lights and screaming and yelling and sanding. Yeah, all that spanking and cutting. You know, I mean, and it must be that in that instance, that the the automatic movement of the the newborn brain is shrinking. Yeah. It’s contracting is saying, Whoa, hold it, stop. Hold all this stuff off.
Rick Archer: I’m not the world. I want to get off. That’s right. I’ll play by that title.
John Sherman: That’s right. It could be you know, can’t be other than that for their child for the for the newborn. Well, what I think happens is in that end, Spin, our point of view toward life is fixed as a point of view that sees life to be dangerous, threatening, incomprehensible, and something that needs to constantly be watched. Now what I mean by life here is the mind. The mind is like the endless rising and falling of phenomena within the mind and thoughts and emotions and experiences, and so forth and so on. That’s life. So now, here I am, and I have to hold that whole array of stuff at arm’s length, I have to keep it separate from me. I have to keep my life separate from me, lest it swallow me up. Now, of course, all of this is automatic and has no no content of, you know, know, what verbal content to it, or conceptual content to it, whatever.
Rick Archer: And some people say it takes years of, you know, maturation before that separation, really calcifies, you know, because we’re babies are still very wide open, and so on. But you know, come all the continuous bombardment of sensory input and learning to distinguish between themselves and the mother and all those Piaget developmental stages. And all that takes a while for this, for us to really get sort of anchored.
John Sherman: Oh, yeah, but, but our stance is set in a way that the apparatus was set on that course. That’s right, our stance is set, our stance sees life as being threatening and fearful, as something that has to be either conquered or defended against or ignored. Those are three things that we watch for. So and that sense of being separate from my own life is misery itself. And all of the development that you refer to is development that seeks to explain it, understand it, get better, more skillful at handling my relationship with my mother and my relationship with the world or my relationship with my life at all proceeds as it does throughout the life, actually, but certainly, through puberty and adolescence, and that when it gets really crazy. But that’s the problem. It seems so obvious and self evident to me, that that’s the problem. The problem is separation from my life, that, that there is this gap between me and my life, that requires me to see my life as unsatisfactory. It’s just just a requirement. It’s not satisfactory, there’s something wrong here something has to be gotten something has to be gotten rid of something has to be understood, somebody has to be some understanding has to be jettisoned. Something has to be done about the content of my life, or else it will always be this unsatisfactory, unsatisfying, misery, that it is for pretty much all of humanity, we we evolve. A number of strategies for dealing with that. Denial is probably the most common. But we do, you know, we develop a number of strategies for dealing with that. But all along, none of them erases that fundamental problem, which is the sense of separation from my own life. That’s the problem.
Rick Archer: I would suggest that well, first of all, if you believe in reincarnation, this is something we go through over and over again, that’s that’s a whole topic, but then I would suggest that that Upanishad ik verse that I quoted, pertains to something even more fundamental, which is that there’s a sort of an initial, you know, in the process of manifestation, there’s a, the separation takes place between, you know, perceiver, and perceived, you know, self and non self, there’s a sort of a bifurcation of diversification that occurs. And once that has happened, we’re out in the world of diversity. So there’s this, you know, this kind, of course, that we’re on, and this whole awakening thing is, is a matter of coming coming back to that source. And as to DSL, you know, put it finding it for the first time. But I don’t mean to put, I don’t mean to sort of, I just want to throw that into the mix, and have you comment on it in the course of your unfoldment of this. It occurred to me a lot when I was thinking of you’re listening to your audios over the past week. I just wanted to throw that point out. So I’m sorry for the interruption. But yeah. So So in other words, I’m just trying to say, you know, it may seem metaphysical, but I think it might be helpful not to view this solely in the context of one life and what we go through in this one life it it’s sort of a there’s a larger context, which has to do with the very kind of manifesting ation of the universe. And if there weren’t a diversification or a sort of a loss of of that, you know, some kind of fundamental loss of self referral, there probably wouldn’t be a universe on some kind of cosmic scale it there has to be this sort of loss, hide and seek game that God is playing with himself in order for manifestation to occur.
John Sherman: Let’s see, I think that’s a that’s just an interpretation. What’s, what’s the case? What is the case,
Rick Archer: how it comes down when the how the rubber meets the road as being what is the case
John Sherman: is that the world consists in an endless array of rising and falling phenomena, separate phenomena. That’s our experience. That’s the case, yes. Now, the all of the advice that’s been given to us about how we should see that or understand that has done us no good. In the end, the case is that all of those approaches have failed to do the job of bringing an end to human insanity,
Rick Archer: at least, at least for the whole world they have. But for certain for individual participants, they may have succeeded.
John Sherman: They may have led them on, on a path as I was laid on a path that eventually allow them to stumble upon what reality is, but those understandings don’t do that. Because understandings are all part of the content, and are all are all colored and shaped by this unseen and on an acknowledged sense that my life is out to get me to everything Whatsoever thy comes into the mind, all of the ways that we receive things, interpret them, understand them, and so forth are skewed and distorted, because of the fact that they are being accessed. I say that word there was not a word. Because they because they are being being perceived within a structure that is the sole purpose of which the fundamental purpose of which is to protect me against this storm of experience, which itself is, to my mind is not exactly I wouldn’t say it’s God playing joke’s on us. But it certainly is the energy of existence, that has support, what 14 billion years now been steadfastly in the direction of moving outward, or becoming more separate, or becoming more distinguishable and distinct, and so forth, and so on, or, you know, greater detail of separation and, and an expression and I, and it’s certainly the case, and I say this to be true, that the evolution of the human creature has brought the human creature, and maybe not only this human creature, because all we have to work with is just a little neck of the woods that we inhabit. But that has certainly brought the human creature to the capacity of being able to enjoy the endless display of separation, that constitutes existence itself. And I don’t think that’s so different from what you were just speaking. But I just don’t see that that understanding of it isn’t understanding and is certainly not complete, no understanding is complete. But I don’t see how that understanding is of any practical use to the ordinary human beings who don’t even get caught up into the spiritual realm, but just live their lives and misery day by day lead lives of quiet desperation to someone else, it’s day by day until they fall into the grave.
Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s pretty abstract and metaphysical and interesting to speculate about, but it’s not going to help the, you know, the man of the street too much, right? You need, he needs something practical,
John Sherman: something practical, and something to the point, something that can be understood as something that works, above all,
Rick Archer: totally agreed.
John Sherman: Now, there’s a lot of things within the spiritual practices and within the, even within the psychological practices and philosophical practices, there’s a lot of things that we can make good use of, but we can’t make good use of them, when they use we are making them is to try to protect us or get us get rid of the fundamental problem of being human, which is the sense that my life is out to get me. One, where they are put to that task, to change the content of the life, like to make me understand something that I don’t understand, or to have an insight that I have not had, or have a state of being that is unfamiliar to me. If they are operating on the content of the life then they cannot help because the content of the life is entirely contained and our understanding of it is entirely shaped by this apparatus that has come into being to protect us from the life not to Don’t give us the life but to protect us. So and what I speak of, I’m going to say this before, you pointed out to me, what I speak of seems to be within the rubric of self inquiry, the overall rubric within that realm of self inquiry.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And when you say what you speak of, you’re referring to your, the core teacher teaching that you have, which is to just look at yourself, right? It sounds like something Ramana advised or something.
John Sherman: And it’s very difficult for people to, to his spiritual people have a hard time that they will hear what I say often and quietly, silently, maybe even to themselves and take it interpreted as something having to do with True Self or, or awareness or consciousness, or some such thing. Right.
Rick Archer: Okay. And what you’re saying is that it’s not that it’s something not, it’s not so. So let’s be wrong with all that, but Okay, so we want to get 100% clear on what it is you actually are saying
John Sherman: 100% clear on what I’m actually saying. And 100% clear on what I’m not saying, Good.
Rick Archer: Let’s do that.
John Sherman: I have nothing against any spiritual teacher, person, right? I’m not saying that. I don’t think that anything whatsoever that has to do with the content of the life, which includes the spiritual teachings that we fall in love with, everything we do in life, nothing whatsoever that has anything to do with the content of the life is, is the problem. Right? No solution is to be found by for example, saying the spiritual teachings are the problem. If you get rid of those, you’ll be okay. Poor understanding is the problem if you get rid of that you’re okay.
Rick Archer: Right. So you’re not saying either those.
John Sherman: No, those things are all normal activities of human within human life at that can be useful or not useful. Depending on the idiosyncratic nature, the human being takes them up and so forth. But they’re no different from any other domain within the human experience in which humans interact and try to find pleasure or satisfaction or whatever they try to find from
Rick Archer: other words that have their value in their own realm of sphere of influence. They’re
John Sherman: their own. Now, and it’s the same with everything else. I don’t think that the problem is the insane political situation in the world. I think all of these things, all of them are symptoms of the actual cause of the problem, the actual problem, which is the separation from my sense of separation of my own life.
Rick Archer: Yeah, that sounds good. I mean, so in other words, you’re saying that all the various problems, whatever they may be, are, you know, ultimately could be boiled down to this one essential problem, if you want to call it that, which is separation from one’s own life.
John Sherman: One of the one of the things that makes this insight powerful, is the fact that it actually does pretty much explain everything. Really does. Yes, so. So what to do about that? Okay, well, what I’ve what I have found what Carl and I have discovered, and quite To our surprise, actually, I, as I tried to indicate, in the beginning of this, we really didn’t think there was anything going to come of any of this, we were trying to do the best we could, just like everybody else, we’re doing the best we could, we were doing what came to hand and trying to do it with as little do as little damage as we possibly could, and actually try to get to a point where we were useful to people, but I don’t think either one of us ever really thought that what would that what would happen would be what has actually happened, which is that we have actually discovered an astonishing actuality. Okay, actual actuality,
Rick Archer: astonishing thing
John Sherman: that I can’t, that I could probably come up with suggestions as to why it works and so forth. I have theories about it, but they’re beside the point, they’re of no consequence, right? We have discovered that and this is now borne out by the experience of many people. To our surprise, we have discovered that if anyone so far as we can tell, will just make a an actual concerted, sincere effort to get the direct experience of the reality of their nature. And what I mean by that and like, as I say, that phrase, it triggers a whole spiritual thing there.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, I think okay, once once Your ultimate pure consciousness, you
John Sherman: know, that’s what I’m talking about. Yeah. So, because ultimately
Rick Archer: I, you know, my upbringing is that’s the reality of our nature, ultimately. I mean, there are many layers of more manifest aspects of our personality. But there, when you get right down to the essence of it, that’s what we all are. At least that’s what you know, but I’m open to whatever it is, you have to say that may differ from that.
John Sherman: And what I mean, when I say make an honest, just one honest, concerted effort to get the actual taste of the reality of their nature, is to get the actual taste of it, what it feels like to be you. Which is not the same thing. I’m asking everybody to see if they cannot. Not the same thing as what, as the reality of your nature. Okay. It’s it is it is more in keeping with Raman is report of the first force of personality.
Rick Archer: Uh huh. So you’re not speaking of the reality of one’s nature in a transcendental sense. You’re, you’re speaking a bit more in terms of just nitty gritty, visceral right now, what it feels like to be you
John Sherman: could be me. Okay. And, and I further try to, to make clear what I’m talking about by just calling it by such things as the personhood of you. Right, what person feels like? What does it feel like person? What does it feel like to be you
Rick Archer: know, are you alluding to something a little deeper, though, than just like, you know, I mean, the reality of what it feels like to be you when you have the flu is going to be different than what it feels like when you’re healthy?
John Sherman: Oh, no, that’s not what I’m talking about. Okay. Well, you’re talking about you’re here. There’s no question about that. Right? You have always been here so far, as you can tell. There has never been a time in your life when you have been absent. Never. You’re here?
Rick Archer: Well, unless I was asleep or something. Right? Well, I
John Sherman: mean, that’s debatable.
Rick Archer: But when I wake up, there I am, again,
John Sherman: very Oregon, right? And there is, by the way, oh, even a deep sleep. There is a sense. When you’re awake that time has passed. Right? Which indicates to me that you are there. Otherwise, you would be like a fast cut in the movie. Right? So the UI speak of has always been here ever absent? It feels like you don’t feel like anything else. It feels like you. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t change. It doesn’t come and go. It’s you. Yeah. And I know that those terms all have been diverted into other philosophical and spiritual things.
Rick Archer: I think that maybe that’s the same thing that they’re talking about the thing you’re just using different words for?
John Sherman: I think they’re talking I think similar words, I think we’re talking about the same thing. But I think that it is there is a vast separation between the abstract conceptualized idea of something that is never moving, always present, unchanging, and the natural devolving of that into it’s the thing that we were talking you were talking about earlier. There’s a vast difference between that. And I don’t think that the understanding of the people who talk in those terms, has, as seen, the fact that what they’re talking about is their own person, this Yeah, home person. That what they’re talking about, I think, because I used to talk the same way. What they are talking about, I think, is what is the is the is the all of the acquired understandings pertaining to that experience. So have you? Yeah,
Rick Archer: so you’re saying there’s a vast separation between that as a concept which one could prattle on about endlessly, and the and the direct living? That’s right, and the reality and submit a reality of it? Yeah. Well, I think there’s the whether or not there’s a separation depends upon the state of that person’s experience. I think for some people, it is hope, totally conceptual, and for others, if they’re speaking from what they’re experiencing what they’re living, don’t you think? You know, what, let’s take
John Sherman: apologize for saying that. I think I know what other people are saying because I really don’t know what other people are saying. What I know is the effect of those sayings on the people that they speak to, and I know from my own experience as being one of them. I As well as my continuing experience with people who report back to me about these things, that that’s the way they’re received, that is the way they are received as a concept as something that is not me something that I have to find something I have to understand, that has nothing whatsoever to do with me. And in fact, likelihood is the existence of the meanness of me is in the way of that. It’s just so
Rick Archer: So are you saying that, for instance, somebody like Eckhart Tolle, who’s a popular person, everybody knows him, everyone’s read his books. He is speaking in concepts, which is the only way we can speak. I mean, we’re you and I are speaking in concepts right now. But he’s speaking on the basis of a genuine realization or awakening that he has had. And he’s trying to convey a sense of that to his listeners. And what you’re saying is, you know, you’re doing more than just speaking in concepts and describing a state of some sort. You’re saying, Here’s a nuts and bolts practical thing you can do, you know, whoever you are to actually, you know, have this become experiential rather than conceptual? Is that a fair assessment?
John Sherman: Close? What? Yeah, what? What I’m saying is that that’s much closer. What I’m saying is that there is an act that you can perform. Yes, yes, a technique. This is the simple act, one act. It’s not like a conglomeration of actions, and so forth. And understanding is one act, anybody can perform. And what I am claiming, and I will claim it to you, is that anybody who performs takes on the task of trying to perform this act, Will. So far as I can tell so far, pretty much without exception, rid themselves of the cause of the misery in your life.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And that one act is that one act, seeing what it is to be you notice, you say it better,
John Sherman: is to get a direct taste of what it feels like to be you right? Now, maybe I maybe I can get it a little clearer about what I’m talking about there by by saying some of the ways in which that can be that act can be performed. Okay. Which it can be developed and performed? Yeah. Good. For example. You are here, you know, that, right? Yes. There’s no question about that. Never any question about that, right? Never. And, and it has nothing to do with the fact of your body. You could be in Gitmo somewhere and being hallucinogenic drugs and so forth. And had none of this is actually happening in the venue that you think it’s happening. But so that you are certain of your existence in a way that you are certain of nothing else, you are certain of your existence, in a way that you are not certain of your body, not certain of your position, not certain of your, your human human body, human species, you are certain that you exist in a way that you are certain and nothing
Rick Archer: else. Yeah. And that existence is sort of rock solid continuum. And, you know, it’s, despite whatever changes may be taking
John Sherman: place, right, but that we don’t have to go there. Right. That’s the that’s the experience. Yes, that’s right. Gotcha. That that certainty, is you, right? So if you get a taste of what that certainty feels like, before the discussion of it, and so forth, you are in direct, immediate contact with reality of your own nature. Yeah. Okay. That’s one thing. The another thing is to just see what it feels like to be here, what is here, what does here refer to? It refers to you. So that if you seek the the direct experience, so here, you will find you whether you know what you are not. And this is a really interesting point. I’ll get to that in a minute. Another thing that I’ve found that quite a few people have actually reported back, we have a lot of, we have a forums on our website where people report that things are happening to them, and they are just now becoming quite, quite active. It’s only since November that I really have gone all out to try to communicate this to people, because it’s only since November that I really have rid myself of a lot of the stuff they’ve gotten away. But one of the things that people have found useful is that if you can and this is a strange thing. If you can call to mind some experience in your past, maybe in your childhood. For some schmuck, it doesn’t have to be anything big or important or, in fact, it’s probably best if it’s not just some actual memory of you doing something as a child, like I, I call people’s attention to something that was that was like that for me. When I came out of a movie in the afternoon when I was about eight years old, out of the absorption into a movie called Winchester 73, into the bright sunshine of the ordinary day. I remember what it felt like Ben, I remember that experience. And if you could do that, you’ll find that if you just look for a moment, you will see what it felt like to be you then not the stuff that was happening. But the actual feeling of you there. Yeah, the same as you now.
Rick Archer: I’ve actually done that, you know, even before I heard you say that I’ve often done that where I’ve remembered something that happened decades ago, you know, and there’s, there’s a unis there. Yes, right? It’s the same as the same units as now.
John Sherman: All right. Now, the, the that. So if you do that. And it seems also that intent has a lot to do with that, to do that with the intent of actually getting a taste of the unis of you, is the critical element. Also, it’s important to see that that taste is not the solution. It’s not like, Oh, now I know what I am. And everything’s clear it up. It’s not that at all right? That that taste is not the solution to the problem. The problem is a sense of separation from life. But that taste will, if it’s done with the content of having that taste, will so far without fail, snuffed out fear of life over time. It’s hard to say.
Rick Archer: I mean, you’re saying it sort of
John Sherman: grown at shores or something, you have to say something here. And that is that the fear of life and us as adults is not a big thing. We have, we have a lot of experience with the fact that we are not snuffed out every time we think we’re going to be snuffed out. So we’ve become a little bit blase about it. It’s a small little murmur that isn’t always even noticeable. See, it’s not the fear of life, it’s a problem. That’s a small little, you can notice it, sometimes you’ll feel a little anxious, or some kind of existential angst and things of that nature. But mostly, most of the time it goes unnoticed. So it’s not the fear of life, it’s the problem, except that it is the energy that drives the problem. It is the sense of separation from life, that that produced in the moment of your birth. So the first thing is to rid ourselves of that false fear. And that’s done. Simply by looking at you, that happens, whether it happens immediate, or not immediate, I’m not, I have no way of knowing, I know that I used to tell people and still do that you should do this whenever it occurs to you to do so you shouldn’t try to make a career out of it, you shouldn’t abandon all your other stuff, just whatever it encouraged you to do. So see if you can turn your beam of your attention inward, and get a taste of what you will feel like
Rick Archer: I’ve had people sometimes say, with things like this, you know, like, if you’re in a job where you have to make a lot of phone calls, every time you have to make one just for a moment before you dial the phone, do that. And then make a call. So so so or every time you brush your teeth, or every time you do some thing, you know, build it into your schedule.
John Sherman: Exactly. But I have since come to the end. I thought so at the time. And I’ve since pretty much come to the conclusion that the first look is what counts. And that the first look causes the end people we report back how Oh, now I find myself doing it traffic I find myself you know, I’ll just it only takes that takes becomes a habit sort of a second. Yeah. And I think that the first look is what counts, and that it triggers that returning that continual returning to that taste over time.
Rick Archer: Yeah. You know, one other thing I found is that sometimes certain traumatic experiences or challenging experiences throw that into contrast more like you know, falling off my bicycle one time about 10 years ago and it was kind of almost with amusement that I noticed that that that continuum of me was just silently there while hitting my head on the pavement and skinning my arm and at all are running through a busy airport with all the noise and craziness and yet there’s that you know that silent foundation just kind of like not being changed, you’re challenged, but by all the credit up chaos of the airport, things like that comes just sitting. Yeah, exactly. It’s not maybe not so noticeable sometimes if I’m just sitting in front of my computer for hours on end doing something, but when there’s something a bit more contrasting then more obvious. And another thing
John Sherman: about it is, and first, I want to stress the attentional part, right, intentional intention, yes, attention seems to be critical. The other thing that that people consistently confirm. And that is useful to know, just because it might ease the mind somewhat, is that you can’t stay there. The actual contact with that, even and for some people, you might not even have a recognizable experience of having had to direct contact with a reality of your nature. You know, it’s too uninteresting to attention. You There is nothing about you, that calls attention to yourself. Nothing. You don’t do anything, you don’t change your the background of everything.
Rick Archer: Well, it’s not really the purpose or function of attention to keep itself on that isn’t I mean, it’s the purpose of attention to sort of, to engage in speech and eat food. And you know, what all the other things we attend to
John Sherman: keep an eye on this life lesson swallow me up.
Rick Archer: But I mean, that’s what attention is designed to do. The senses are designed to do
John Sherman: exactly. So it’s an unnatural act. Really is I say that a lot. This is an unnatural act. It’s not. It’s not something that comes naturally, except sometimes it does. And it you may not even know that you’ve accomplished it. If you keep doing it, then you’ve accomplished it. That’s the that’s the sense that, that that’s how you know, that just happened. Yeah, I think that the fear of life probably goes pretty quickly, because it’s not a big thing. Anyway, now, it was big when it set the stage, but it’s not big now. I think it probably goes pretty quickly, what takes time, which is what I’m calling the course of recovery from this disease, it’s like an auto immune disease. The what takes time, is the restructuring the RE configuration of the apparatus of Persona, the apparatus of personality, the whole set of assumptions and understandings and relationships and so forth, that are built up over your entire life. That takes time for that to reconstruct itself.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And probably also the neurophysiological component of that,
John Sherman: probably so yeah. And that is the period and that period can be long or short. Now I’ve known it, and some people, it doesn’t take very long. And some people it takes a long time and is actually fraught with quite unpleasantness. You know, like it can be, it can be a period where the, the the craziness gets worse. Yeah. And I think it’s just because things are deconstructing and it’s
Rick Archer: sort of a purging taking place or reshuffling.
John Sherman: But then what it takes whether it takes a day or a year or more like that, I think my experience probably was the longest but you know, two or three years for some. But no matter how long it takes, the end is certain. And in the end, what happens is quite simple is that you just notice the fact that you’re know that you are engaged, and intimately involved with your life in a way that was previously unknown and impossible, that there actually is no gap whatsoever between you and your life, your life being this entire magnificent display of existence that is coming and going and being understood or not understood and so forth. And so it’s not that the life then gets transcended or transformed or cleaned up or ignorance, it’s that the life with all of its wonder is wildness, it’s it’s, which is, the life is exactly the, the endless unfolding and evolution of existence itself. The the life is, is no longer threatening to you. Right? It is, it is an adventure and at a wonder it’s not a threat in any way, shape, or form.
Rick Archer: And that sounds like non duality to me, or at least a good a good definition of it, you know, which harkens back to that Upanishad quote of certainly all fear is born of duality. I mean, if you and your life are no longer at odds with one another. If there’s a harmony or a unity between them, then duality has been overcome and fear has been eliminated.
John Sherman: Well, except that, and I don’t want to be I don’t want to quibble about these things, but they’re
Rick Archer: not stating that as as an absolute certainty,
John Sherman: as a way, need to be made, okay? Because the fact is that the sense of separation doesn’t disappear. The sense of myself as a separate individual doesn’t disappear. If it disappeared, I would be going back to sleep. The the, to me the desire for an elimination of the sense of me as a separate individual, is it desire to return to the womb, it’s a desire to go back to sleep awakeness is life fully experienced. So it’s not the weather, you know, and the whole, the whole metaphysical discussion about the actual nature of existence and so forth, can be taken up with great enjoyment, and the like, but it’s not bad. This looking eliminates the sense of separation, it eliminates the sense of separation of me and my life. Just that one.
Rick Archer: What about all the people who say that the sense of a separate individual has disappeared? I mean, what are they going through? What are they experiencing?
John Sherman: Well, I think they’re experiencing what I experienced during that year of Enlightenment. So
Rick Archer: you think they’re going to lose it?
John Sherman: It’s a state.
Rick Archer: It a stage?
John Sherman: A state, yes.
Rick Archer: A state. So so all these people, I mean, it didn’t even Ramana say that he didn’t have
John Sherman: Oh no, he never said that. Okay. He never ever said that.
Rick Archer: Papaji Gangaji, any of these characters? I mean, do they talk that way? Or many people do?
John Sherman: I don’t know, I, I’ll tell you. To me, there’s two examples of teachers who have gotten really, really close to reality. And in both cases, they had no particular spiritual practice, and didn’t have any, any real background of gaining understanding and expectations about what states would ensue as a result of success and things of that nature. And one is Ramana, which is obvious. And the other is Nisargadatta, whose teacher died, who told him to hold on to the I Am, and then died. And that was it.
Rick Archer: He said, I just believed my teacher and just did it in 10 years I was done.
John Sherman: And I think that it’s also possible for I don’t know why I can’t speak about other people. But I do think that here’s the telling way to tell the state. If it was not here, and it is here, it’s a state passing through. If there was a time when it wasn’t here. By the way, this is also straight from puppetry. There’s a time when it wasn’t here. And now it is here, it’s a state and it will depart. You are never absent. That’s the case. That’s simply the case. So when I hear people proclaiming the fact that they have no sense of separate self, I, I just wish them well. And, you know, I don’t think they’re hurting anybody. I don’t think they’re hurting themselves. But I suspect that the law I don’t, I don’t want to, I don’t want to wish ill on anybody
Rick Archer: know, you’re not wishing ill but what you’re saying is that it’s a state and that they may have a rude awakening one day where they no longer have that sense of No, of no self,
John Sherman: and also as you did, that’s right, it also even those who have attained high states of spiritual accomplishment, even those who have attained those highest states of spiritual accomplishment, since they are states that they have not gotten to the root of the problem. Since that is the case, then the minds of those people are just as effective as the minds of anybody else and denying the fact that the state that previously held them in such Thrall has now departed.
Rick Archer: Well, I won’t try to argue on their behalf. But although I imagine that a lively discussion will ensue on my site once once this is posted. But um, I, you know, I just I just have a little healthy skepticism about everything. And just because to me, just because a person and I, you know, terminology is limited, but just because one has arrived at a point where there’s pretty much no sense of a personal self and it seems that everything is just going on by virtue of the Gunas of nature, as the Gita puts it. And wasn’t one was not always in that State of realization doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a state which will come and go, I mean, whatever Enlightenment may be, you know, in terms of genuine Enlightenment, not sort of states of experience, the flashy things that we gain and lose, you know, traditionally, is something that one awakens to at some stage, the Buddha, for instance, under the Bodhi tree, at some point gained Enlightenment. And just the fact that he hadn’t been in that state of the rest of the prior to that point, doesn’t mean it was a state that he then lost five years later, there was a shift that took place which persisted.
John Sherman: She I think that reports about the Buddha, when I when I read about the Buddha, I, you know, for one thing, you have to understand that nothing whatsoever was written about the Buddha until 500 years after he died. Yeah, same with a couple 100 years, no contemporary accounts whatsoever about the Buddha. That’s why all of the teachings within Buddhism begin with, Thus have I heard, I heard from this guy, right, that this is the case. And the guy before him says, I heard from this guy. It’s
Rick Archer: like the old party game of somebody’s here and it goes around the room comes back to you totally different.
John Sherman: So that I think that just from a practical standpoint, trying to find some confirmation or, or lack of confirmation, and stories about the Buddha is, is not very helpful. Well, we
Rick Archer: could take contemporary stories. I mean, there are contemporary teachers who have been at it for quite a while, some of whom speak in the ways we’ve just been alluding to, you know, having, you know, kind of lost the locked in sense of personal identity that once dominated their life, and who seemed to be cruising along and it hasn’t, they haven’t lost it again. But you know, I will add one thing, which is that maybe this helps us resolve the conundrum. And that is that, at least to me, it seems that there has to be at least some flavor of personal identity, otherwise you couldn’t function. I mean, it’s right. In Sanskrit they call it Leisha video, which means faint remains of ignorance, meaning there has to be some, some some greasy surface on the palm of your hand after you’ve thrown off the butterball that, that remains, that analogy is used. Otherwise, you couldn’t walk through the door, you know, distinguished your mouth, from your forehead when you tried to eat. That’s
John Sherman: right. And of course, to me, I celebrate that it’s not it’s not the greasy leftover residue was the point of the whole thing. Yeah, that’s where the joy is. That’s where the joy is. That’s yeah, that’s, that is the awakening. And, and we have misunderstood, but here, here’s the main thing about all of that is that I have no interest in dissuading people about other people’s teachings or other people’s states. I really don’t. I really don’t think that that’s of any value to anybody. It’s of no value to me to take on Eckhart Tolle and say, Oh, I think this about Eckhart Tolle, I think that about Erykah turiya The truth is, I have no thoughts about Eckhart Tolle. That’s the truth, but
Rick Archer: I’m just using him as a case.
John Sherman: I don’t think about any of them anymore. Okay. And so that, from my from my point of view, that is all beside the point. That’s just the case, whatever the case is, we may not know what the case is. But whatever the case is, that’s just the case. And the case also is that none of that has been very much helped anybody in the real world of being human being, and getting from day to day as a human being. That’s the real case, though. Yeah. So I have, I do not ever want anybody to think that I am telling them that any other teacher is wrong, or right.
Rick Archer: Not wrong. But you just said in the last sentence that none of it has ever been of any great help.
John Sherman: But that’s true. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. That doesn’t mean they’re ill intended.
Rick Archer: Makes it sound like they’re a waste of time, though. They are a waste
John Sherman: of time. But so is watching television. Yeah, you know, so is riding a bicycle. I mean, everything eats up time. And the way people choose to spend their time has nothing whatsoever to do with the source of their problem as a human being.
Rick Archer: But there may be a lot of people listening to this who are thinking right now wait, but wait a minute, you know, I’ve been doing XYZ I’ve been doing this meditation or that practice, or you know, following this teacher, whatever. It hasn’t been a waste of my time and my life has changed so much since then. I’ve I’m such a better person. I’m so much happier. Yeah, I
John Sherman: picked up the waste of time from your phrase. What? Yeah, that’s all we’ve got. Really, that’s our only asset here is time. And it’s endlessly trickling away. And we expend it on whatever we expended on. That’s perfectly
Rick Archer: okay. And different things bear different fruits or not.
John Sherman: Or not. Yeah, but that’s perfectly okay. Right. Some things I do like Carla, for example, has become a genius at backyard gardening. As she, she invests a lot of time in and taking care of the raised beds with the tomatoes and the corn and the hobby. It’s really a magnificent thing that she’s doing out there. I can see it out there in my backyard.
Rick Archer: I’m sure she loves it, and you like eating the tomatoes and the corn
John Sherman: I do a day then I that and she is but she’s expending time. And that’s the fruit of that, for us is the satisfaction she gets from it. And also the food we get to eat from it. Yeah, nice how other people, other people spend their time on investigating spiritual texts and spiritual understandings and, and things of that nature have lost all interest in it. But that doesn’t mean everybody’s going to lose interest.
Rick Archer: Nor should they. I mean, people do what they do.
John Sherman: Yeah, they should not do it nor not do it. It’s just beside the point.
Rick Archer: Yeah, well, as the Gita, again, I’m quoting the Gita a lot for some reason. So it’s creatures follow their own nature, what can restrain,
John Sherman: you know, the thing about the Gunas, and all of that, that’s all quite clear explication of the way things seem to be, thanks, just are they they unfold in an ocean of cause and effect, the actual particulars of which are, are hidden from everything, nobody can know how anything came to be, you know, that’s really the case. Karma is unfathomable. History is the beauty of it. So what I’m talking about here is not Oh, stop going to spiritual teachers, or don’t need a spiritual book, read whatever you want,
Rick Archer: or don’t meditate or don’t do whatever do whatever he wants to do. It’s you’re just throwing something new in which you feel has been missing
John Sherman: on it yet. I’m asking you to perform this one act. Okay. So the act is not understanding. It’s not an insight, it’s an act. And
Rick Archer: that is this act of yours differ from meditation, let’s say where you are intentionally sitting down and turning your attention inwards, you know, how to shift from that?
John Sherman: Where do your tangent? Where do you turn your attention inward towards your purpose?
Rick Archer: To get in touch with the self, the you know, with who you are, essentially, I mean, to, you know, allow the the clutter that tends to overshadow that.
John Sherman: But what’s your why, and what’s the purpose of that? What do you what do you get out of
Rick Archer: that? Well, ultimately, the purpose is to, you know, realize that in a more permanent way, and to have your life enriched by that realization, at least that’s how I would say,
John Sherman: and say, That doesn’t make any sense to me. Just the fact is that you are never not aware of yourself. That’s already the case.
Rick Archer: But it’s a matter of degree, isn’t it? I mean, sometimes that could just be a tiny flickering flame, or it can be a roaring bonfire, depending upon how overshadowed it is, or how enlivened it is.
John Sherman: There’s nothing about you that resembles a roaring bonfire metaphor worldwide, but it was to see the, the fact that it that you resort to metaphor, yeah, that metaphor is telling, as to what you expect from what you’re doing within with, Okay,
Rick Archer: let me put it this way. Let’s take an example, let’s say a heroin addict, you know, he’s been course of trying to blot out his awareness as much as possible, because life is painful to him or whatever. So he stays in a stupor as much as possible. Now compare the, you know, the degree to which someone like that is is, you know, aware of himself or aware of consciousness or whatever term you want to use to someone like Ramana, you know, who in whom it’s wide awake, and, you know, very self aware, very self, you know, Cognizant in I mean, doesn’t that extreme example, sort of indicate that there’s a whole spectrum of gradations of the degree to which one is aware of oneself? And that awareness can be enhanced or heightened? And it isn’t your very teaching that you’re teaching a method of trying to accomplish just that going? No,
John Sherman: no, no, it’s not. I’m not trying to accomplish that at all. Okay, that is just the case. And the fact is that once the once the looking does its work, then the fact that you are always aware of yourself is obvious. It doesn’t have any special significance. It’s just the case. It’s like, it’s like the it’s like the white paper that this title was written on. Right? We read the we pay close attention to the letters and the meaning of the words that they form. And we are deeply interested in the content of it and what it says. But there could be no such thing as the meaning and content and so forth. Is that the black text, a word not on the white paper. And we never noticed the white paper. Yeah, we’re always aware of it.
Rick Archer: We’re not, we never just brought our attention to it. So we don’t never
John Sherman: notice it, we’re not interested in it, it’s of no consequence to us. But it’s the same with the experience of me. I am not interested in the experience of me, the fact that I am aware always that the experience of me has actually done me no good in this whole life. It has no significance whatsoever that I am aware of me, the fact that after the looking has done his job, and the course of recovery is finished, I am always aware of the fact that this white paper or of the, of the me here, has no significance. Either it doesn’t add or subtract anything to the text to the text of existence, playing out on it.
Rick Archer: But the fear is gone, the suffering is gone.
John Sherman: The fear and the and the relationship to life of separation and anguish
Rick Archer: is gone. Yeah. And that’s why you’re so enthusiastic about promoting this because you want to help people rid themselves of that fear and anguish?
John Sherman: Yes, I do. And
Rick Archer: yeah, so you’re saying that self awareness is kind of like an on off switch rather than a rheostat? In other words, either you it’s there, it’s not but it’s not ever there by degrees, more of it or less of it is either it’s there, it’s not on black, black and white.
John Sherman: Yes. Because Because, and that’s because, you the and I really, I really resist using word self because it is so contaminated.
Rick Archer: Okay.
John Sherman: All right.
Rick Archer: It’s like, God or something.
John Sherman: Yeah, right. Exactly. You, the person you are you’re just here,
Rick Archer: you are what you are, you’re not
John Sherman: You are what you are
Rick Archer: You’re not going to be more or less than.
John Sherman: That’s not going to ever change, you can’t be less you, you can’t be more you, there is no enhancement that you can bring to you, what you can do is rid yourself of that which stands in your way of, of enjoying a day filled with a wonder and, and magnificence of this incomprehensible arising of existence.
Rick Archer: I totally agree with that. And But to my mind, that which stands in the way, can be just standing in the way a teeny tiny bit, or it can be a big massive thing, that cloud that’s blocking the sun and there and, and so you know, as you as you yourself said, he start this practice, being aware of you, and it may take years for it to all sort of work itself out. And as that working out takes place, isn’t there a sort of a progressive clarification or, or stability or something of that appreciation?
John Sherman: Life gets better? Yeah, immediately begins to get better. Even though there are periods of feverish pneus. And, and confusion, life immediately begins to get better. There’s no question. But that is not due to the fact that you are aware of your presence here. That does not what makes life better. That’s always the case. Alright? Your presence, right? What what is, what is the cause of that? Growing satisfaction and contentment, and St. Saturday is the is the closing of the gap between you and your life and consequent restructuring of the apparatus by means of which you experience your life and express yourself in your life? Yeah, that’s what that’s what the gradual thing is, the problem is, is that there’s that gap, the gap is closed, and there’s no and since you have always been, you can see this to be the case, you have always been aware of your presence here, there’s not a moment passes, that you’re not aware of your presence here, you just don’t notice it. It cannot be that awareness that causes the the shift that causes the change in the relationship. It is the it is the and one way of speaking about it and I’m I wouldn’t even call this a theory I’d call it more of a hypothesis is that that beam of attention, the thing that you by what means in which you notice things, as you pointed out, that beam of attention has come into being with a specific and specific purpose. And that is to look at things in the world as they come upon you to identify the things that are good to identify the things that are bad, to identify the things that you can be indifferent to, to identify the things you want it and all that right. Yes, but that is for right now. The fundamental point of view of that beam of attention is the point of view that sees life to be a threat. So the fundamental purpose of that beam of attention in a life that is, that is distorted by the fear of life, the fundamental purpose is to protect you from life, and to look out for the things that will save you from life. When you turn it to touch, that which it is actually protecting, it seems to be just like a match coming to water, and the absolute absurdity of it, and not in a not in a way that translates into an understanding in the conscious mind. But the patent absurdity of it just does away with your brought the Fae, that is trying to protect you, in contact with the reality that there’s no need for any protection whatsoever. So
Rick Archer: another verse from the Gita just came to mind, which is a little of this Dharma removes great fear. And, you know, if we think of that, and if we apply that to what you’re saying, You’re just saying, just, you know, one little taste of this sort of 180 degree shift of attention to, you know, what it’s like to be you can work wonders can can really remove a lot of a lot of fear,
John Sherman: as well. And it actually seems to be pretty much infallible, so far, you should see some of the reports and people and these are not reports of people who have lost self consciousness and are, are swimming in the ocean of bliss or, or clarity or anything of the kind. Life is just what it is life is confusing, contradictory, unreliable, filled with problems filled with clarity and problems and confusion and satisfaction and dissatisfaction, life remains as it is endlessly changing, endless, presenting these, these phenomena of arisings. But your relationship is no longer predicated on the idea that it’s that it’s the fact that it contains problems, the fact that it is incomprehensible, the fact that it’s unreliable, the fact that it is understandable, and so forth, and so on, you’re no longer afflicted with the idea that that is a threat to you. Yeah, it’s part of it’s a feature, not a threat. And, and the, yeah,
Rick Archer: I’m throwing out a lot of metaphors today. But another one comes to mind is who’s, you know, in a pitch black room, even a little match that gets a little candle, lights up the room quite significantly.
John Sherman: And you say, I can see too, and I’ve seen over time, although I don’t, I don’t talk about it, because I don’t find it helpful to people, I see to how the teachings themselves the Ancient Wisdom Teachings themselves. And not only those from India, you know that there was a period about 5000 years ago, when all over the world, human beings began to look inward, looking for some kind of what they called inward, it’s really the interior, but looking for some kind of solution. You know, in Greece, and in China, and pretty much all over the world, that shift occurred more or less the same time. But I say to say in all of them, all of them, that, that they resonate entirely with this that I am bringing to people, yes, really clear to me, that in religion, also, you know, I have a guy who is involved with this now who has actually been through it all, he has been an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, he has taken he has been a practitioner of mystical Sufi, mystical Islamic Sufism, he has been a direct disciple of the Dalai Lama. And the whole range, really remarkable range of experience for anybody in the search for a solution to the fundamental problem of the life. He has written to me. And we just recently wrote to me about how he sees this to be the core, the heart of all religious and spiritual teachings whatsoever. And I think that’s true.
Rick Archer: Well, I don’t disagree with that actually, based upon, you know, everything I’ve gleaned from listening to you both today. And you know, over the past week I, in fact, I was a little puzzled a bit because on the one hand, you can’t seem to be kind of saying, Well, this is a breakthrough. This is a new thing. On the other hand, I kind of kept feeling like, Well, this sounds very familiar. I mean, it sounds like what they’ve all been saying forever,
John Sherman: but is it? It is a breakthrough. But it’s but that doesn’t imply that we have not ever been on the right track. We have been on the right track all along, just in the wrong direction, just looking for the wrong thing. And, and, and it is the case that sincere and devoted and dedicated people throughout all of our history, have found ways to to perceive something true about the nature of reality, and our relationship to it. And, and it is. And it is, as we said, in the beginning of this, there are a small handful of people, over the 1000s of years that we’ve been involved in this project, there are a small handful of people who clearly have authentically stumbled upon reality really clearly. And it’s obvious, not from, from the trans transmissibility of it. But from it’s obvious to me because of the, the way in which they speak of it. Now, I seem to be, you know, when you see it from this side, when you see those teachings, and so forth from this side, it’s a whole different thing. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a case that they’re talking about, and trying hard to talk about it in a way that will be helpful to us. So it’s not in any way that I am saying that this is a repudiation of all that’s gone before. It’s the fulfillment of what’s gone before.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And it’s a, it’s a fresh show, you know, as I say, only a new sealed seed can yield a new crop, it’s sort of a fresh presentation of something that you feel has been missing from the spiritual marketplace, so to speak. And what you’re seeing in your direct experience is proving to be of great value for people who give it a try.
John Sherman: Fair, as fair enough. And even more than that, I see that to be the case so much, that we have embarked upon a kind of a movement. This thing is so simple. You say it’s my, my sense. And, and I have experienced with this, it’s not just made up. It’s my sense that when someone hears it, if they can hear it, claiming this suggestion cleanly, and and I don’t mean spiritual people, back spiritual people probably have more difficulty than, you know, Joe Sixpack on the street. But if they can just hear this clearly enough, just one time, they can’t help a truck. I mean, it’s not hard. It’s not anything to have to pay for. They don’t have to become a monk. They don’t have to go into years of training and rigorous practice and so forth. All they have to do is look at themselves just once. Yeah. And my sense is that anybody who hears that cleanly can’t help but try it. And if they try it, they will succeed.
Rick Archer: Well, I’m sorry, go ahead. And
John Sherman: our intent now is to actually build a movement in which this simple suggestion can be brought to the ears of a large enough body of humanity, set the amount of 20% a large enough body of humanity, just the suggestion can be brought to the ears just to the ears of a large enough body of humanity to comprise a kind of critical mass. Yeah, that will, that will have the effect of reversing the direction of the development of the human species, from one into greater realms of insanity, and perhaps extinction to return to Saturday. It’s not gonna, it’s not like overnight, but we got to reverse the direction we’re going in. And that, so that’s what we’re doing now.
Rick Archer: Good. Well, I hope that this interview has helped out I can’t even promise you an entire percentage point towards your goal, but but it’s a it’ll be something in the bucket anyway. Do you feel like you’ve had an opera, you’ve had adequate opportunity to explain clearly what it is you would like people to hear? Or have my questions been sort of disruptive at all?
John Sherman: Your questions have been been? There’s questions that people in the spiritual realm Bring, bring up. Okay, so they’re actually quite useful. Good. I just want to say one more time. So I do get this said, Yes, please, this doesn’t take two hours to say, right? If you will. Try with all your heart, make whatever effort is necessary to try to bring the beam of your attention in direct contact with what it actually feels like to be you not self, not awareness, not emptiness, not God. You if you will try to do that. The problem that afflicts you, the problem that makes you think that there’s something you need, that you don’t have something that you’re doing wrong, that you should be doing right, or anything of that kind will, without fail, go away.
Rick Archer: Beautiful, well, I don’t think it can be stated any more clearly than that. But if you People need clarification, you’ve got a website, they can get in touch with you, you do retreats once a year at least. And there’s I understand from listening to that you’re quite accessible, you know people can find you or Skype you or whatever and, and
John Sherman: we have online, we have online worldwide meetings a couple times a month on Saturdays, which people from all over the world join. And we have an open house most Wednesdays, I spend an hour with people who come
Rick Archer: in we have you mean physically in your in Ojai?
John Sherman: No, no, no, no, I am okay, online. This is everyone’s naipu Not everyone’s day, but most Wednesdays, and I talk to people in private conversations, whenever somebody wants to, and they, they make arrangements with Carla and we set up a schedule. I’ll talk to anybody who wants to talk to me. Great. It’s all free.
Rick Archer: Nothing’s gonna be in trouble once we get up to 20% of the world’s population. But for now, yeah, they’re accessible.
John Sherman: And it’s all free. We don’t charge any fees whatsoever. Right. We we are grateful for donations, but we we charge no fees of any kind.
Rick Archer: Good. Okay, well, let’s conclude I think we’ve been going on pretty long here. But I just I just want to conclude by thank you, first of all, for for this conversation, I could easily go on another hour, I’m really enjoying talking to you. And but you know, there’s a practical limit to how long we can make these. My wife says lunch is cold. But anyway, I thank you very much for engaging in this conversation with me and for tolerating my persnickety questions.
John Sherman: Oh, sure. It’s a great pleasure. Really, Rick, I’m really happy that we had this chance. Are you going to are you going to have my websites available for
Rick Archer: Yes, I was just gonna say that. So on batgap.com I mean, for instance, a person might be listening to this on YouTube, and they or they might be listening on a podcast or somebody may have sent them the mp3 file or something and so they don’t, but if but if they go to batgap.com, they’ll have a whole little thing will see your photo and your bio and, and links to your websites. And they’ll also see all the other interviews I’ve done and will do, they could sign up for an email newsletter, sign up for the podcast and so on and so forth. So that’s all there at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Sherman: And, and they can find us everything we have at River Ganga data work,
Rick Archer: river ganga.org. Good. Okay, well, thanks, John. I’ve been speaking with John Sherman, who lives in Ojai, California and who is a has lived a very interesting life and I hope continues to live one for many years to come, because he’s got a great gift to give to the world. Thank you. Thank you.