Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and my guest this week is Unmani. And Unmani is from the UK but appears to have a home in Byron Bay Australia and yet on her website says she lives out of a suitcase. Right? You live out of a suitcase.
Unmani: I don’t live in Byron Bay either. I haven’t been there for two years.
Rick: I was listening to old recordings I guess.
Unmani: Yeah, maybe. I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia.
Rick: Hmm. Byron Bay sounds like a nice place just from the name of it. It sounds beautiful.
Unmani: It is.
Rick: Yeah. How did you come to have the name Unmani?
Unmani: Well I spent some time at the the Osho commune in Pune in India after Osho was already dead. And I took sannyas which some people may know about. But it’s basically a kind of a ceremony where you receive a new name and the idea is that you kind of start a life of meditation – something like that.
Rick: Spiritual life.
Unmani: Yeah. Yeah. Something like that. Yeah. And at the time it was quite a significant time for me at that time because I’d never come across anything spiritual or I hadn’t meditated before. So it really opened my eyes to that. So that’s why I took the name. Okay. And I’ve kept the name just because I like the name not because I have any affiliation to Osho or anything else.
Rick: Right. So I think we’re going to be talking about both of those themes and what you mean by not knowing and why that was so important to you that you named your website after it, and why you changed the name to “Die to Love”. There must have been a good reason for that. So we could start with that but I’m thinking let’s just backtrack just a little bit more so people get a feeling for your background. How did you end up in Osho’s ashram and was that the first sort of taste of the spiritual scene or had you already been a seeker for a long time?
Unmani: No I wasn’t really much of a seeker really. I didn’t do very much before I was at the Osho commune. I was traveling. I mean I was I guess searching for myself but not in a spiritual way. I was searching for an identity because as a child I always felt that I didn’t know who I was and everyone else seemed to know.
Rick: Who they were.
Unmani: Who they were. Yeah.
Rick: Not who you were.
Unmani: Well and who they thought I was.
Rick: Okay, yeah. And you figured somebody must know.
Unmani: Yeah. Well at least they seemed to know. I thought that there must be something wrong with me because everyone else knows and I don’t. I kept on looking. You know where am I? Where do I find myself? In what? I just kept on trying to find where… like who has preferences? Who has opinions? Because I didn’t have any of those. I mean.
Rick: So in other words you had preferences and opinions but there didn’t seem to be a person who had them. You couldn’t find the one who had them. Is that what you’re saying?
Unmani: Well there were like spontaneous preferences for whatever was going on but not really opinions about anything.
Rick: So you never got involved in politics or anything like that? You could give a hoot about you know.
Unmani: No never. It’s never been of any interest but I just remember at primary school when I was like little, people used to ask me like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What’s your favorite color?” or “Your favorite football team?” or anything like that and I had no idea where to find that information. Who has that?
Rick: Now you must have had some, I mean maybe your mother serves you carrots and you would rather have peas or that kind of thing but.
Unmani: Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah. That’s what I say like kind of spontaneous preferences or like yeah I mean.
Rick: Certain people you like to hang around with and other people you didn’t like to hang around with and that kind of thing.
Unmani: But much more kind of not so much a mental preference as in like a feeling of like, “Oh yeah I like this” or “I don’t like that”.
Rick: Just a sort of…
Unmani: More of a physical sense.
Rick: Yeah, like a gut feeling.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: Yeah. But at the same time you were troubled by the sense that there was no… you didn’t know who it was who had these preferences or whatever. There was like, “Who the heck am I?”
Unmani: Yeah and the extra preferences that other people seem to think or the strong opinions that people had. I just thought there must be something wrong with me because I just don’t see any relevance, any importance about any of those things. I didn’t know how to play the game.
Unmani: And so I went searching for someone, for an identity that I could take on so that I could play the game.
Rick: Now when you got into your teenage years… a lot of times people start out with this sort of pure pristine tabula rasa kind of state but then they get in their teenage years and they kind of get more engrossed in relative concerns. Did that happen to you or did you slide through your teenage years unscathed?
Unmani: Oh it was a tough time. It was a really tough time. I became very suicidal and I was, yeah, just very depressed. I went through like a gothic stage. I don’t know if you have that in the States.
Rick: I know what you mean, you have black clothing and all that stuff.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, like really depressed and black makeup and I dyed my hair like all these different punk colors.
Rick: Amy Winehouse kind of stuff.
Unmani: Yeah, a little bit like that.
Rick: And did you go through a drug phase?
Unmani: Yeah, yeah sure, yeah, an experimental phase.
Rick: Sure, a lot of us did.
Rick: But was there still this sort of conscious kind of seeking or inquisitiveness like, “Who the heck am I? What’s this all about?” I mean that never really went away, huh?
Unmani: No, I mean that was consistent and I guess I was searching in different ways. I hadn’t discovered spirituality but I did see a therapist for a while and in a way it was quite helpful to talk to somebody at least.
Unmani: But I didn’t feel that they understood me really, they didn’t understand what I was really… the real problem that I couldn’t find myself.
Rick: Yeah, interesting. Okay, so then you somehow got to the age where you’re able to cut loose and you headed out and started doing some traveling and you somehow ended up in Pune, or am I skipping some important steps?
Unmani: Well you know, not necessarily important but I lived in Israel for eight years actually.
Rick: Are you Jewish?
Unmani: Yeah, my family is, yeah.
Rick: Were you trying to sort of find some identity in Judaism?
Unmani: Not so much Judaism as a religion because my family’s never been religious but more kind of traditional. Yeah, as a culture exactly. And my family, or my mother in particular, has been always very supportive of Israel and so I thought, “Well okay, maybe I’ll check out Israel”, and I was part of like a Jewish youth movement which was not religious but more like a Zionist, kind of based in very old Zionist ideas that actually when I got to Israel I realized they weren’t really relevant. But yeah, I had a nice time in Israel and kind of grew in confidence, I guess.
Rick: But it sounds like you’re hanging with a bunch of people who were rather certain of their convictions and you again were like, “How do they get so hot and bothered about this stuff?”
Unmani: Yeah, I went with it like it’s part of this group, this youth movement, like 20 young people. I think we were all like 17-18 and they all seemed to have strong opinions in different ways and I just felt a complete outsider for that year. I was in Israel for the first year with that group and yeah, it was quite depressing. Again, I was still kind of depressed from my teenage years.
Rick: Yeah. I’m going along with this as it’s unfolding but I sense the implication and I concur with it that there’s something very significant about this lack of strong opinions. I think there’s a real spiritual significance to that which we can get on to. But okay, so you ended up eight or so years in Israel and then headed further east.
Unmani: Yeah, like a lot of Israelis do actually. A lot of Israelis travel in the far east and I’d been in a relationship for about seven years and it was quite traumatic and I just wanted to get away from him actually. It was a good reason to go off and yeah, I worked in Japan for a while and made a bit of money and then I went to Thailand and then India and it was all kind of traveling. I wasn’t interested in spirituality at all. I was partying.
Rick: Yeah, I did the fair amount of that when I was a teenager too. I mean I’d just get out there, stick out my thumb and go to California or up to Boston or whatever. It was a sort of a boundary-breaking thing. You keep moving and you’re not so attached in a way.
Unmani: Exactly, that’s what I love about traveling actually. Every place you go you lose any kind of identity that you may have had in the last place. Start fresh.
Rick: Yeah, and you mentioned sannyas. I mean there are certain orders of sannyasis who by their very vows are not supposed to stay in a place more than three days. They’re supposed to keep moving, so it’s right up your alley.
Rick: Okay, but somehow or other you ended up stumbling into Osho’s ashram at some point. Was that coincidental or did you finally begin to get a spiritual sort of orientation to the whole thing and that drew you there?
Unmani: Well, in India you can’t really avoid spirituality.
Unmani: So just being there already I’d heard of things like Reiki and I think I’d learned a little bit of Reiki and that kind of opened my eyes a little bit to energy, you know, that whole kind of New Age energy.
Rick: Subtler evels…
Unmani: Yeah, that sort of thing. And it was a whole new world, but at the same time I kind of knew that some of the more New Age kind of practices that were going on were not really what I was looking for. And I tried a few things also in Osho’s commune because you can do any kind of healing or therapy or anything there. I did like color therapy and I don’t know what else I did, various things like that. I mean they were fun, but at the time I was so intent on finding myself and that intention was just getting stronger and stronger, but I wasn’t interested in the subtleties. That was not where I was at yet.
Rick: Well, you wanted to perhaps even go beyond those to something more fundamental.
Unmani: Yeah, I wanted to get to the root of it and I didn’t know how, so I just kept on feeling, “Okay, no, not this, not this, not this, not this”.
Rick: Neti neti.
Unmani: Exactly. And it was really strong and I was always very clear about that. I didn’t understand it, but in my body I just knew that it’s not this. It didn’t feel 100% complete.
Rick: That’s great. It’s nice that you had that sort of guiding impulse or whatever it was.
Rick: And so, okay, so how did you proceed then? You kept realizing that this, that, or the other thing were not fundamental enough and you moved on to…?
Unmani: Yeah, so I was in India for about three years and a lot of that time I was, well, I was traveling around and partying, but I was also spending quite a bit of time in the Asha Commune. I did like a primal therapy workshop where I regressed my childhood, and – because I thought, maybe the answers are in my childhood. And yes, I spent a week of crying and screaming and trying to kill my mother mainly, and in that process I broke my foot. I broke it and then I continued jumping and screaming on it after I’d broken it. The frustration and the emotion of this whole search was so strong that it was driving me mad, you know? I didn’t care anymore, I didn’t care about anything.
Rick: Did you have it set in a cast or something, or were you still jumping on an unset, broken foot?
Unmani: No, I broke it and then continued immediately. I felt it break and then continued jumping.
Rick: Wow, that’ll give you something to scream about.
Unmani: Yeah, and then I had it set.
Rick: Okay, good.
Unmani: But after that I was lying in bed for weeks and just feeling totally awful and really, again, even more suicidal.
Rick: Because of the broken foot, I mean you had to stay in bed.
Unmani: Well, I was forced to stay in bed because of the broken foot, and so it just meant that I had no escape from what I was feeling. I couldn’t go and distract myself with anything.
Rick: So you broke the foot for a reason. Okay, so there you were, lying in bed.
Unmani: So I was faced with this real wanting to die, really. So had enough. I mean I hadn’t even done that much searching, I mean spiritually, but I had had enough already.
Rick: You kind of had, I mean by comparison with the average person, I mean sure you were partying and you were goofing around, but it seems to me there was a determination there that had been driving you for some time.
Unmani: Well that determination had actually been driving me since I was a child.
Rick: Yeah, there you go. You just hadn’t always aimed it in the right direction.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, and actually even spirituality wasn’t the right direction. That’s also what I discovered. I tried to find it in spirituality and that’s not it either. You can see spirituality as just another thing to do. And the way I was seeing spirituality then, that’s the way it was.
Rick: Yeah, it kind of depends on how you define spirituality perhaps.
Unmani: Sure, in a way I guess I mean like spirituality as opposed to reality, as if it’s something separate.
Unmani: Yeah. So I was into spirituality…
Rick: And ultimately it’s not supposed to be… but there can be all kinds of trippy spirituality that can keep you entertained for years.
Unmani: Yeah, and I wasn’t interested in that. I was so wanting reality. I remember actually lying in bed making a pact with, I don’t know who, but with life or something. But I remember saying, “I am willing to lose everything and never have any of my dreams fulfilled”, as in, I don’t know, you know how this dream that I’d meet the perfect man or whatever, things like that. “I’d never have my dreams fulfilled and never have anything else as long as I can find the truth”. I remember sort of making that pact with life.
Rick: Yeah, I’ve spoken to a number of people who have done something like that, just quite spontaneously they’ve made this sort of pact – I guess is a good enough word – or almost a statement or a prayer almost you could say, and put it out there, “Okay universe, give it to me. I don’t want anything less”. And it’s really turned up the heat when they’ve done that.
Unmani: Yeah, somehow.
Rick: Somebody listens, or as Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find”. I remember hearing a story about some monk who lit a stick of incense and said, “If I’m not enlightened by the time this burns my fingers, I’m going to kill myself”, and apparently he was okay, he didn’t have to kill himself.
Unmani: Yeah, it’s funny how life works.
Rick: But anyway, go ahead.
Unmani: Yeah, so I had heard, about a year before, I’d heard of a woman called Dolano.
Rick: Oh yeah, I’ve heard of her.
Unmani: She’s a German teacher who lives in Pune, but not as part of the Osho ashram. She lives outside. She had been an Osho sannyasin for many years, and then she went to Papaji and woke up, or whatever you call it, and she started teaching after that, some years after that. I had heard of her about a year before, a friend of mine had been to see her, and I’d heard that she was only accepting people who were ready to die. So about a year before all of this drama for me, I wasn’t really ready. I was doing a lot of vipassana meditation, I was still into trying therapy and trying other things. So yeah, it just seemed too scary then. But when I was lying in bed with my broken leg and really making that pact and being so ready to die, I remembered her, and I wrote to her and I said, “I think I’m ready to die. Can I come and join your group?” And she wrote back to me saying, “Write to me when you’re sure you’re ready to die”.
Rick: Oh yeah, because you said, “I think”.
Unmani: Yeah, and I’m so grateful to her for that, really, because she wasn’t prepared to take me with any less than 100%. And so it threw me into even more turmoil and yeah, I just was even more depressed and suicidal, and it took a few more days.
Rick: Did you have a clear understanding at that point of what she meant by ready to die? Or you just had your own notion of it somehow?
Unmani: I knew in my body, again, that feeling of, I can’t even describe it, like it’s fear, a terror, but a knowing that that’s absolutely it.
Rick: But obviously you didn’t interpret that as meaning literally, physically dying. It was more like a death of everything you’re attached to or some such thing.
Unmani: I didn’t understand it mentally, really. I didn’t have any spiritual concepts about how you should die before you wake up, or I didn’t even care about awakening or enlightenment. I wasn’t even interested in enlightenment or liberation or whatever we call it. I didn’t care. I was only wanting the truth, and even the concept of truth, I didn’t even understand it as a concept. I just had this sort of drive in me.
Rick: So in other words, you had this drive, you wanted the truth, but the words “enlightenment” and “liberation” and all that, you didn’t associate them with that drive.
Unmani: Yeah, absolutely.
Rick: And if properly defined, they could be associated with that, but that wasn’t your understanding of them, and you just, “Whatever it is, I want it”.
Unmani: Yeah, exactly. So then I wrote back to her and I said, “Okay, I’m ready. I’m ready to die, really now”. So she invited me to come and I spent a month with her in a small group, and during that month – it was a pretty full-on month – but I can’t even say that something in particular happened. Her expression is very clear, and for me at that time, it was very good because she was using a lot of language that I’d heard in the Osho commune. So she was kind of using that language and then unpicking that language and questioning it, “What does it really mean in reality? What do these spiritual concepts really mean?” And also questioning, “Who are you, really?” And I had never heard that question really before, in the way that she was saying. I’d never been to satsang before.
Rick: You had sort of asked it to yourself all your life, “Who am I?” but somehow I guess it took on new meaning the way she asked it.
Unmani: Yeah, it did. And at some point – I didn’t have a big spiritual experience or anything like that – but something definitely died. I can’t say what it is, really, what it was, but there was definitely an end of something that happened during that time. I guess in a way you could say that somehow time stopped.
Rick: So after a month, you were done with that?
Unmani: With that, yeah. And I then continued traveling around India, and then I went to Australia. My motivation for traveling was – I kind of didn’t have any motivation for anything anymore because all my motivation before that had been to find myself, and so I was kind of just having fun again.
Rick: Was it from a whole different orientation? You say “time stopped”, I mean something had shifted somehow.
Unmani: Yeah. Something had shifted, but still what was happening after that was the questions were coming up in thought, like, “How do I live this? What do I have to do to really bring this into my life on a daily basis?” And of course, I didn’t have answers for that, and those thoughts were just swimming around.
Rick: But the “this” that you were referring to was clear to you at that point, that it had somehow dawned in your awareness, or however you want to phrase it, but it hadn’t integrated. You weren’t able to sort of, like, “Okay, what am I supposed to do now?”
Unmani: Yeah, because it wasn’t… you see, what I’d recognized wasn’t some kind of experience. I wasn’t in a state of bliss or something like that. I wasn’t floating on a cloud somehow. It was reality. I had my feet on the ground, which is exactly what I was always searching for. I didn’t want an experience of bliss, and so I didn’t have one. Obviously, there were times, good times and bad times, but it was reality. And I didn’t think that it should be blissful, because I hadn’t really heard about other teachers’ experiences or anything like that, so I had no kind of idea.
Unmani: Yeah, preconceptions about how it should be. But I did sort of feel like something still wasn’t kind of integrated in some way. I didn’t really understand it.
Rick: Yeah, but nonetheless, there was some stable, abiding realization of some sort. I hate to put words in your mouth, but there was…
Unmani: Yeah, it’s difficult to even put your finger on it because it’s not an experience. It’s just a kind of knowing, not in thinking, but just a knowing, and it’s a kind of expansive knowing. Of course, every word is wrong, but it’s something like that.
Rick: Yeah, but we hint at it, fingers pointing at the moon.
Unmani: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: Not the actual moon, it’s just a finger, but it gives us an indication.
Unmani: Yeah, sure.
Rick: Okay, so then how did you resolve that quandary? You were traveling around, “How am I going to live this?”
Unmani: Yeah, well I mean it’s interesting. I don’t mean to pick on your words…
Rick: It’s okay.
Unmani: …but that question, “How did I resolve it?” It was really resolved by the fact that I recognized that I don’t need to resolve it.
Rick: Yeah, so you just kind of came to be comfortable with that, that there was nothing you needed to do to resolve anything.
Unmani: Well, it took a while. I was traveling in Australia and I came across some other teachers that I kind of dipped into here and there.
Rick: Spiritual teachers, you mean like Sailor Bob, those kinds of people?
Unmani: No, I never went to Sailor Bob then. No, it was more about relationship stuff actually, the male/female dance. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Bernie Prior or Barry Long?
Rick: Yeah, well Bernie Prior is on my list of people to eventually interview. I don’t know about Barry.
Unmani: Okay, but Barry Long is dead, so he’ll be kind of difficult to interview.
Rick: I’ll have to use some psychic to interview him, I guess.
Unmani: Yeah, I never met him but I read a lot of his books and listened to his tapes and that sort of thing, and I kind of got into that trip of the male/female thing. And it was a really interesting exploration for me, especially in terms of relationships with men. But it was still a case of “not this, not that, not this, not that”. It still wasn’t it, it still wasn’t going to help me to integrate anything.
Rick: So you were exploring the relationship thing but you felt like, “Eh, why am I doing this?” Was there a sense of, “Yeah, this is nice but it’s not really the nitty-gritty that I’m ..”.
Unmani: Well, it was a case of, it was really interesting to explore that almost psychological stuff that was still playing out in my relationships, and to kind of get into that trip of like, “Oh, poor me, I’ve been treated so badly as a woman, the men are so horrible”. And it was an interesting thing to play that game for a while and then to see, “Oh yeah, okay, that’s just another trip”, and that fell away too.
Rick: Okay. Having gone through it, did you feel somehow more integrated?
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, but then I guess what really changed things was I went back to England and I came across some of the English spiritual teachers there, like Tony Parsons. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Nathan Gill?
Rick: Oh yeah.
Unmani: Yeah, he is not teaching anymore, but he was fantastic for me, really really clear and just cleared up a lot of confusion that I had still left over. And also hearing both of their expressions, which were very different to Dolano, kind of in a way more down to earth, kind of opened something else for me. But I guess, yeah, one night I was lying in bed and I’d had an argument, or not an argument, like a discussion with some friends and they accused me of being arrogant because I was talking about awakening or something. And so I was lying in bed thinking, “Oh my God, maybe I am so arrogant. Oh, it’s terrible. How arrogant am I?” And I just felt awful. I was spinning with this all night and at one point, I just… suddenly all fell away and I recognized that actually recognizing who I am is absolute arrogance. As in, it’s the only arrogance. You can call it arrogance, it’s not arrogance because it’s all who I am.
Rick: In what sense would you call it arrogance? I mean…
Unmani: Well, it’s not really arrogance. It’s like, you see, for someone like, I mean, the position that I had when I was growing up was that I was very insecure. I always thought there was something wrong with me, I wasn’t good enough. And so to think that I’m okay, to my thinking, sounds arrogant.
Rick: Oh, I see.
Unmani: You see what I mean?
Rick: Yeah, it’s sort of like, who are you to think you’re okay?
Unmani: Yeah, exactly. Like, how dare you? You must be arrogant. But actually, I am okay. I’m 100% okay because I’m the whole of life.
Rick: I think that humility and confidence are not counter-opposed. I mean, they can both be lived simultaneously.
Unmani: Yeah, and humility is not in an attitude of humility.
Rick: No, it’s just… well, what would you say it is?
Unmani: Well, I mean, humility is just a natural recognition of life itself, the fact that you’re not separate from anyone else. That is a natural humility, no separation, no boundaries. How could you take any position higher than anybody else? It’s just ridiculous.
Rick: Yeah, no, that’s a nice definition of it. And perhaps also, not being that separate from life itself, you don’t oppose the natural current of life, the flow of life, you’re sort of in tune with that, not sort of pushing against it, which to me seems arrogant.
Unmani: Yeah, exactly, forcing things because you think that you know better.
Rick: Yeah, insisting that things should be a particular way and so on.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: That’s good. And it’s interesting now we’re getting into something that I think we’re going to talk about a lot tonight, which is paradox, which I’ve heard you mention a number of times, that word, and the whole “not knowing” theme is paradoxical. And so let’s dwell on that as we go along, but since we’re going through a nice chronology here and I think we’re getting a lot out of it, let’s continue with that for a little bit longer. So there you were lying in bed, your friends had accused you of arrogance, you were kind of coming to terms with that accusation, and so take us from there.
Unmani: Okay, so yeah, I guess I just had an insight or a realization or something like that that actually there’s no separation, and in that realization everything was over. As in, I don’t mean that suddenly I’m fully done in some way. But the searching, the thinking that there was something wrong with me, or something missing, that was over.
Rick: You just dropped it.
Unmani: Yeah, it was no longer…
Unmani: Yeah, yeah. But now there’s a common misconception with that, when people hear that, they think, “Oh, that’s it, she’s fully enlightened, it’s done, she’s a perfect person as well. She’s floating around in this state of bliss all the time, and she never feels pain or fear or worry or anything, and it’s not like that. It’s still reality. And what I’ve noticed since then is a never-ending losing, a… seeing thought for what it is, seeing emotion for what it is, seeing physical sensation for what it is, in the reality of what it is, rather than old beliefs, old dreams, hopes, fears. And that stuff comes up to be seen, and kind of melts in the light of who I am.
Rick: That’s beautiful, and it does that just quite spontaneously, you’re not doing anything to facilitate that, right?
Unmani: Not at all. I mean, how could I?
Rick: It just keeps bubbling up and melting.
Unmani: Yeah, I wouldn’t even know how.
Rick: Yeah, that’s neat. And you’re not the first person I’ve heard describe that sort of thing, at a certain stage that seems to be an automatic process takes over, where things just keep presenting themselves in order to dissipate.
Unmani: Absolutely, yeah. So there’s no way I could say that I’ve arrived anywhere.
Rick: That would be arrogant.
Unmani: That would be thought, also claiming some position and making myself separate from the whole of life, and that would just be a joke.
Rick: And on this theme of dropping the seeking and people thinking, “Oh, that means she’s enlightened”, or some such thing, another misunderstanding that I think comes up is that people hear someone say this dropping the seeking business and they say, “Okay, good, I’ll drop the seeking”, and then it becomes this sort of apathy where they’ve kind of unnaturally begun to ignore the natural motivation that you’ve been describing in your own life that had been driving you all along, and just sort of giving up in a way which is perhaps premature.
Unmani: Absolutely, yeah. I mean normally I would advise people to search as hard as they can.
Rick: As long as they’re naturally inclined to do so.
Unmani: Absolutely, to really go for it, to try everything that they feel they need to try, every practice, as much as they feel they need to, until they get so exhausted by it. But it’s got to feel natural, you’ve got to come to that yourself. You can’t rely on what someone else says. If someone else says, “Drop seeking”, that’s just another attitude. This really is about waking up to yourself, for yourself, so you can’t – kind of relying on what someone else has told you, even if it’s right, it’s not taking the authority yourself.
Rick: Right, yeah. I mean it’s like sort of reading a cookbook and not actually getting down and trying the recipes and actually cooking the things.
Unmani: Yeah, and in a way it’s a lot more scary, it’s a lot more frightening to actually go there yourself rather than just believing what someone else has said.
Rick: Yeah, and I would add that what you said about if people are feeling inclined to do practices and all, just go for it, do it, but there was sort of a tone as you said that it’s futile to do it but go ahead and do it anyway. I would say that it’s not necessarily futile, those practices might be very beneficial for the people at the time they’re doing them and then they may reach a point at which they’re no longer beneficial and they become superfluous or obsolete for them at that time, and then maybe they pick up something else.
Unmani: It just depends what we’re talking about as being beneficial, for what? You see, if we’re talking about trying to improve their lives, and if someone wants to improve their life and they feel they’re suffering a lot, then yeah, try a practice, it might actually improve your life in some way, temporarily. But if we’re talking about really getting to the root of it, no practice is going to get you there. It’s about recognizing who you are, it’s not about practicing anything, it’s not about a timeline of improving and then you finally get so improved that you’re enlightened, you know? It’s not like that. It’s about a hard questioning, like what is real?
Rick: But I would posit – and you’re welcome to disagree with this – that a practice of some sort could get a person to the point where they were more ripe or…
Unmani: …more exhausted.
Rick: Maybe more exhausted. I mean I’m speaking from my own experience. I’ve been doing a practice of meditation for there’s that continuous abiding presence of awareness and that’s just hunky-dory. On the other hand, there’s seeking in the sense that I’m totally enthralled with this whole topic, which is why I do this interview show. I love talking to people like you and pondering these sorts of issues and exploring how it has gone for different people. But even now, I mean tonight I had a very busy day and took a long walk with the dogs and came back rather tired and sat down to meditate and after 45 minutes of meditation I felt rejuvenated and just full of energy and clarity. Now that’s just my body, you know, it didn’t really, I don’t think, change my actual awareness, that’s kind of beyond the influence of anything. But maybe that’s just what you’re saying, I mean there was a certain benefit that I derived from it that I really enjoy. It’s like having a good sleep at night or taking a nap or something, but it’s of a different sort, it has certain other effects than those things have.
Unmani: Yeah, I mean we’re agreeing with each other, that’s exactly what I’m saying. If you want to improve your state, maybe kind of see through your thinking a little bit more, I guess that can also help with that. Calm yourself or rejuvenate yourself or something like that. It’s also nice for the body as well. It’s much relaxing and all that. Yeah, it’s just that it’s got nothing to do with recognizing who you are.
Rick: Right, I think I’m with you there. And yet it’s sort of perhaps more conducive to recognizing who one is than it would be if I had spent that 45 minutes drinking a few beers and watching the football game. It would have had a…
Unmani: Not necessarily, not necessarily. No, I mean I don’t know if you drink sometimes, but if you…
Rick: Hardly ever. Like about five years ago I had a beer.
Unmani: Maybe you should try it because it’s an interesting experiment. If you’re drunk, then actually it becomes even more of a play, like life becomes even more kind of obviously not happening to you.
Rick: You know what I find that… I have that experience when I’m in more kind of extreme, demanding circumstances, like if I’m running through an airport or something and all the hecticness of the airport, the contrast is much greater.
Unmani: Right, yeah.
Rick: And the obviousness that it’s not happening to me becomes much more stark.
Unmani: Yeah, well it can be in different circumstances.
Rick: Yeah, yeah, that’s just a case in point.
Unmani: These moments of recognition can come when you least expect it, these insights. And then they go, of course, but you get the point when they come.
Rick: Yeah, they do and they don’t. In a way it’s almost like if you could use a metaphor, you know, let’s say that self-recognition was like a tone, an audible tone. Of course it’s not but for the sake of illustration. And if that tone is going on continuously, then obviously after a while you’re not going to keep paying attention, “Oh yeah, there’s the tone, there’s the tone, there’s the tone”. You’re going to be doing whatever you’re doing, but you could at any point if you wished, check in, “Oh yeah, sure, the tone is still going on”. Does that metaphor help at all or do you think I’m off the beam on that one?
Unmani: Well the thing is that it’s not a tone.
Rick: No, of course.
Unmani: No, no, I know, but I mean it’s not an experience.
Rick: Yes, no.
Unmani: That’s the thing, so you can never check in, “Oh, is it still there?” You can’t because what are you going to find when you check?
Rick: Well you find that that same presence which has no contents.
Unmani: And what’s that?
Rick: It’s that which can’t be encapsulated in words obviously…
Unmani: Yeah, so how are you going to find it?
Rick: …but we can allude to it.
Unmani: Yeah, but when you look for it, how are you going to find it?
Rick: You don’t find it as an object of perception. I mean you are that and you’re not kind of…
Rick: Yeah, you’re not, “Oh yeah, here it is over in this corner”, but somehow it is known in a different way than ordinarily things are known in which there is the object and the subject and the sensory apparatus which enables you to perceive the object.
Unmani: This conversation that we’re having actually is a very common misconception that somehow, even subtly, it is believed to be an experience.
Rick: Right, right.
Unmani: And it is subtle and thinking can be very sneaky with this, thinking that somehow you can put attention on it.
Rick: And thereby retain it, you mean, in some way?
Unmani: And thereby… what?
Rick: And thereby retain it by virtue of putting attention on it, yeah, yeah.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and that when you forget to put your attention on it, “Oh, it’s lost”, or something.
Rick: Yeah, no I totally agree with you. It’s not lived by virtue of remembering it nor is it lost by virtue of forgetting it, you know. Because if it could be, then it’s something which is encapsulated within the individuality and obviously it’s probably the exact opposite. The individuality is encapsulated within that.
Unmani: Absolutely, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rick: I mean I don’t know about you, but I definitely went through a phase back at a certain point of, “I got it, I lost it, I got it, I lost it”, this kind of on-again, off-again sort of thing, which was rather agonizing.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, a lot of people go through that. Yeah. Where thinking thinks it gets it, but of course it never gets it. It’s just thinking thinks, “Oh, I’ve got it now”, and then thinking thinks, “I’ve lost it now”. But actually you’ve never got it and you’ve never lost it, because it’s not an “it”.
Rick: Right. There is something which I thought, which came to my mind quite a bit when I was listening to your satsangs and recordings. I don’t know why I kept thinking of it but maybe we can explore it a bit. And that is that even though this is not an experience – in the sense that listening to a concert is an experience or eating dinner is an experience or anything like that – it is lived by virtue of the fact that we have a body, you know? I mean if we died then who knows what would be happening, or if we suffered a severe stroke or something, who knows whether we would still be living it, whether it would still be lived, at least in this body. Do you agree with me so far?
Unmani: Well, of course we don’t know.
Rick: We don’t know.
Unmani: We don’t know what happens when this body dies, and actually, who cares? Really, I mean there is a body, it seems, but even that is too much, you know? It’s a common, socially accepted thing to say that there is a body, but actually the reality right now is that I have no body. I mean I don’t find a body in any way. I find sensation, I find like a bit of a visual image of a body.
Rick: Well that actually gets me onto another…
Unmani: I’m not in any body.
Rick: No, but the fact that we’re able to have this conversation and the fact that you spend all of your time running around the world talking about something, however elusive it may be to put in words, is able to take place by virtue of the fact that you have a brain and a nervous system and you’ve learned how to speak over the course of a lifetime, and there are certain parts of your brain that are responsible for that function. And what I’m beginning to get at here is that there may also be certain parts of the brain, or perhaps the entire brain or whatever, that are responsible for the fact that there was some dawning of self-recognition or self-realization or whatever terminology we may want to use. In other words, that it has a physiological correlate or counterpart that enables it to be lived, and that if the physiology were sufficiently damaged we may lose the ability to live it. And conversely, if the physiology is enhanced in some way, on some level, perhaps all this stuff you were going through with the Osho’s community and all the other things and Dolano and so on, was not only changing something in the way you understood things, but there was something in the way your brain was functioning. I mean people for instance go through these huge Kundalini things sometimes, for instance, they feel like huge changes are taking place in their physiologies, and at the end of it they find themselves to be awake in a way that they never were before. So it’s not only that somehow consciousness has been realized, but as if the physiology has been transmuted in some way to support or enable that realization.
Unmani: Are you asking me?
Rick: Well I want your response to that.
Unmani: I have no idea. I don’t know if it means if I have a brain even.
Rick: Yeah, well.
Unmani: I don’t know, really, I don’t know. I know it sounds stupid to say that, it sounds ridiculous, but I prefer to stick with what I know.
Rick: Okay, that’s good.
Unmani: Rather than just buying into what everybody else believes in.
Rick: Yeah, as a matter of fact when I was listening to you, to your satsangs, I was thinking of the example of, I don’t know if I have a liver, but you could cut me open and probably it would be there, but I don’t really know.
Unmani: Yeah, probably it would be there, but who knows? And actually it’s irrelevant really.
Rick: It is, there’s a subtle point I’m trying to get at which is that personally I think that the whole world of spirituality and spiritual practices and spiritual development or whatever you want to call it – and I realize that terminology is inadequate – has a physiological basis. And there’s actually been a lot of research on it from various types of practices and techniques and so on, and there are scientists trying to establish that the so-called enlightened state or realized state actually has a physiological correlate in terms of the brain functioning in a certain way and the physiology functioning in a certain way, which kind of stands to reason because it is something that is lived through this apparatus, if it’s lived at all. Maybe I’ve gone on on that point for too long, I’m sorry.
Unmani: I have no idea.
Rick: Okay, well okay, on the theme of no idea, let’s talk about not knowing a little bit. Why did you name your website “Not Knowing” and that obviously was a cornerstone of what you considered important to talk about.
Unmani: Yeah, I mean I guess this also, I can talk about that and also. It ties into why I’ve changed it now to “Die to Love” because as I said earlier, when I was a child I kind of never really understood what was going on really. And as I grew up and then as I recognized who I really am, in that recognition I recognized that I’d always known that, since I was a child actually. I guess that’s kind of why I didn’t have some sudden big spiritual experience in recognizing that because it wasn’t new. You know, it was just like, “Oh, okay, we’re talking about that. Oh, okay, I’ve always known that”.
Rick: Yeah, “I’d always been that”.
Unmani: Yeah, of course, but I never heard someone actually talk about it. And so I started calling the meetings, “Meetings in Not Knowing”, in gratitude to the child that always knew, that always knew that she didn’t know. And so the meetings, when I first started, they were just a kind of scream, well I wasn’t screaming literally – not usually – but they were kind of a rebellious scream against the world that had told me that I should know, when actually I didn’t know and I didn’t need to know. So I was kind of screaming in the meetings, “I don’t need to know. That’s who I am, not knowing”. And so the meetings were very good for me, actually. They were like a kind of healing, in a way, for me, to be able to say it, “Yeah, this is the way it is”, even if the whole world says the opposite. And yeah, so that’s why I called the meetings, “Meetings in Not Knowing”, in gratitude to that.
Rick: So what were you actually saying to people in a nutshell?
Unmani: Well, I was… I had lots of things. I mean the expressions changed a lot over the years. I was pointing to who I am, who they are, in lots of ways. Pointing to the fact that actually, when they think they know, that’s just thinking. And that actually, in reality, who they are doesn’t need to rely on thinking in order to be. So yeah, I was highlighting that in words, in the eyes, in the energy of just sitting there together. But now, why it’s changed is because I was doing those meetings for about eight years, and the expression naturally developed. When I first started, I was just sitting at the front, taking questions from the audience, because that was the format that I’d seen other people, other teachers do, so I just copied that because I didn’t really know how else to do it. And I guess it was sort of safe to just copy that when I first started. And as I grew in courage doing it, and I kind of took on more of my own authority in it, I changed the format. And I had another chair at the front, and I invited people to come up to the front to have intimate dialogues with me. And for me, that changed everything, because before that, I started to feel that it was getting quite stagnant. It was just becoming like an intellectual debate, that people were interrupting each other and picking each other up on their words. Someone would sit at the very back of the room and shout a question out to me, and I’d shout an answer back to them, and it was just all words.
Unmani: It was chaotic, it wasn’t intense enough. It wasn’t…
Rick: Coherent enough.
Unmani: …coherent enough, it wasn’t focused enough. And I wanted to start to really focus, because somehow I seemed to be able to, I seemed to have a very good bullshit detector, somehow. And that’s developed more and more over the last few years. And so in these dialogues now, someone is sitting in front of me, and very gently, I’m not kind of slapping them around too much, but very gently just meeting them where they’re at and taking them slowly from there, undermining their thinking, their beliefs, and uncovering the reality of what they really know, so that they can recognize it for themselves, rather than just agreeing with me conceptually. So that changed…
Rick: Right, or learning how to talk the talk.
Unmani: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: There’s a lot of that going on.
Unmani: Yeah, that was just sickening, actually, at the time. The non-duality scene was just, yeah, exactly. That broke away from that.
Rick: Yeah. A friend of mine that I interviewed a few weeks ago, he said that when they all came back from, where was it, Lucknow, where Papaji was back in the late ’90s, they were all saying, they wouldn’t just say, “Pass the salt”, they would say, “This body wants the salt”. It was kind of nauseating.
Unmani: Yeah, really. So there was a lot of that in the London non-duality scene. So yeah, I didn’t really enjoy it. I wanted to snap people out of that, and so having them come up to the front was quite good with that.
Rick: Well this is good. Let’s talk a bit more about this. I feel like I need to compensate for that long diatribe that I just went into a few minutes ago. This whole thing about… Let me pose this as a question, why do you feel that divesting people or helping to break them of the habit of taking their opinions and thoughts so seriously is a very powerful instrumental tool in enabling them, in helping them to shift into a broader perspective or something?
Unmani: Well, everyone is searching really to live in a more free way, also on a daily basis. People want to live in a way that is beyond belief, beyond the restrictions of their beliefs. And so recognizing who they are, you recognize that actually who you are is already beyond all of those beliefs, and yet those beliefs can still kick in. So it can feel like that paradox of like, “I recognize who I am, but I’m still living as if I don’t recognize that. Then why?” And it’s very frustrating and upsetting. And so exploring that with people and taking them from recognizing who they are, so they clearly recognize that, and then in that pops up these old patterns, old beliefs, old habits, hopes, fears, dreams. And in that recognition of who they are, they can see more clearly how ridiculous those restricting beliefs are. So somehow in the dialogue together, we’re holding that recognition together, just by looking in the eyes, by sitting there together. I don’t even understand how it works, but energetically somehow it’s held so that together we can explore the reality of their thinking, the conceptual stuff that’s been weaved in.
Rick: I think it helps people to attune somehow to that. It’s like if you put two tuning forks next to each other and twang one of them, the other one will start to vibrate after a while at the same frequency.
Rick: Of course you just referred to people who have recognized who they are but are still tripped up by their opinions and beliefs, but don’t you get a lot of people who wouldn’t feel very confident that they had recognized who they are also?
Unmani: Well anyone who thinks that they’ve recognized who they are usually hasn’t anyway.
Rick: Then how would someone legitimately convey to you that they had recognized who they are?
Unmani: Well they wouldn’t have to say anything, it would be obvious.
Unmani: Sorry, what was the question?
Rick: Well just that I’m sure that among the people who come to your satsangs, if you call them satsangs, there’s a whole mixed bag, a whole spectrum, a whole range of types of people, some of whom may be very confused and don’t have the slightest shred of confidence that they have any idea who they are, and others who may be quite grounded and settled in that realization but still have some cobwebs to clear up.
Unmani: Sure, and what’s good about these dialogues is that I’m meeting each person where they’re at.
Rick: Yeah, by getting them up on the stage one at a time.
Unmani: Yeah, exactly. So if they’re still trying to figure it all out and still trying to understand and they’re researching and then we investigate who they are, really, like right now.
Rick: That’s kind of the way Gangaji has been doing it for a long time. So then the rest of the audience just sits and behaves themselves and you can have a more coherent dialogue with one person.
Unmani: Yeah, and actually a lot of people say that they get a lot out of watching the dialogues…
Unmani: Yes, it’s much more intense than the intellectual debate. A lot happens. People have recognitions, energetic shifts, or I don’t know, all these words are wrong, they don’t really say it, but somehow things happen for people and they realize stuff. They realize how they’ve been taking themselves so seriously. We have a laugh, maybe they cry, so yeah, it can be quite dramatic.
Rick: Yeah, no, definitely. There’s a saying in India that you can move a table by pulling any of its legs and the rest of the legs will come along. And my allusion to practices and so on earlier was just kind of an endorsement of pulling certain legs, but what you’re talking about here is pulling a different sort of leg, and it’s very profound, it really is. I’ve seen it happen many times, people just, their whole orientation kind of shifts, or there’s sort of an alignment or an attunement that takes place and it can have very deep and lasting…
Unmani: Yeah, I mean I guess I generally tend to relate to everybody as if they already know who they are, because they do, it’s just that they think they don’t. So in that, just that seems to relax something in people, because they kind of recognize something just by…
Rick: By virtue of your recognition.
Unmani: Yeah, and yet they can’t put their finger on it, they’re still trying to figure it out with their minds, but there’s some recognition there.
Rick: Yeah, that’s great. And so how did you shift? You haven’t really talked much about this “die to love” thing, I don’t think, so how did that take the foremost?
Unmani: So in the last year or so, or maybe a bit more, I’ve just felt – well maybe a couple of years – I’ve felt that the expression has grown in courage, in strength, or also in vulnerability in a way, in a kind of strength in vulnerability, and it’s evolved again. And so this not knowing thing somehow seems like a kind of an old phase. You know, there’s a continual… as I was saying before, there’s a continual losing and growing in this daily life. Life just like a plant or a tree, it’s continually changing and growing, and the same for this person.
Rick: I love that you’re saying that. In fact, in many of my interviews I have to try to coax that out of people. I say, “Don’t you feel like there’s still some kind of growth or unfoldment or evolution or however you want to phrase it?” And a lot of them just say, “No, it’s like how could anything possibly change?” It’s like… And I can’t relate to it, but the people that I can relate to more easily are the kind of thing you’re saying here, which is that, because again, I can only relate in terms of my own experience and what I observe in people, but there’s this sort of continual deepening or, like you say, falling away.
Unmani: Absolutely, it blows me away again and again and again and again and again. You know, there’s no end to it. And actually, for me, the meetings do that as well.
Rick: I’ll bet you they’re as beneficial for you as they are for the participants, you know? It’s like you’re the one who gets the most out of it.
Unmani: Absolutely, yeah. I actually don’t care about anybody else. I’m not trying to help anybody else. Why would I? I don’t see anybody else. I don’t see that anybody needs any help. They are already absolutely perfect, just the way they are, and I relate to them like that. So actually, in fact, it’s a surprise when they tell me that they think something is missing or they’re searching for something. But all the stuff that seems to be coming from them, actually it’s all coming up in me. It’s all in who I am, and somehow there seems to be a sensitivity to be able to feel everything that the other person is feeling as we sit there together. And so yeah, it’s fully… I don’t know, it has a whole life of its own, especially in retreats. When I run retreats, they’re extremely powerful – for me and for everybody else.
Rick: Yeah, people can really settle into it.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, and it’s not just dialogues that we do. We do all kinds of things that actually trigger stuff, trigger more old patterns and old beliefs and fears and all of that, so that we can look at it even more.
Rick: So you mentioned that the reason this “die to love” phrase came in is that the not-knowing thing had, in a way, run its course. I mean, I’m sure that that’s still as relevant as it always was, but somehow a new flavor had begun to dawn.
Unmani: Yeah, well actually what I said before about how the meetings used to be like ingratitude to the child that always knew, I feel now that the child is not here anymore. She’s fully integrated into the woman. I mean, even the woman’s not here, but somehow there’s only this expression now, and doing the meetings out of gratitude to the child just seems like some old story. It doesn’t seem like… I don’t feel the need to scream in that rebellious way anymore. There’s more kind of a resting in okayness now. There’s no reacting to the world.
Rick: And why the word “love”? Do you feel like love has blossomed a lot more within your experience or something? Is that why you’re emphasizing that word?
Unmani: Well, actually, “Die to Love” is the name of my second book, and when I wrote that book – I wrote it a few years ago – but when I wrote it, it was an exploration of love for myself. You know, I wanted to explore what is the meaning of love, about relationships, but also not only the experience of love, but also the word “love” being used for who I am, and how does the word “love” actually really have any meaning in who I am, as who I am, you know? And through writing that book, I have explored it for myself, and since then, there’s been much more, I guess, an in-loveness that happens in the meetings and generally in my life, but much more of an including everything. And it’s not… the word “love” can sound very kind of lovey-dovey.
Rick: It’s got a lot of connotations.
Unmani: Yeah, and I don’t mean it like that at all. I’m still very much talking about reality, like feet on the ground, very much like what is actually going on, and it’s not about blissing out, it’s not about some dreamy love state. It’s – I like the word “love” because I use it in terms of like, everything is included, and that’s why it’s love, because we’re talking about like unconditional love, that everything in life is love, even if it doesn’t feel like love. Even if it’s uncomfortable or painful or frightening, it is still who I am, which is love. It’s the same thing. And dying to love, die to love, is the death of who you think you are, and to everything that is, which is love. And life loves itself so much that it dies to itself.
Rick: Yeah, the word “love” is tricky, it’s like using the word “God” – there’s so many connotations and all, but I’m glad you’re using it, I don’t think you should avoid it.
Unmani: I guess I’m using it especially because it’s got those connotations, because a lot of people are afraid to use it because of that.
Rick: Yeah, and a lot of non-duality teachers and so on seem to delight in…
Unmani: …trashing love.
Rick: Well, trashing love and portraying reality as a very colorless, quality-less, flat…
Rick: Empty nothingness.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it is empty, and yet the paradox is that emptiness is full. And I guess also for me in a way, the not knowing was more on the side of emptiness, and now I feel like it’s kind of flipped. It hasn’t flipped completely to the fullness as well, because I still talk about death. And the death is the nothingness, we’re all afraid of dying because we’re afraid of nothing. And… yeah.
Rick: There’s this thing in Vedic studies where there’s shunyavada, which is like an emphasis on emptiness, and then there’s purnavada, which is an emphasis on fullness. And you know…
Unmani: I like both.
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Unmani: That’s the reality.
Rick: Yeah, and that brings up another great point, which I kind of thought about a lot as I was listening to your audios, which is that, in fact a lot of times as I was listening to you, and I listened for quite a few hours because I haven’t done an interview for a couple of weeks so I had plenty of time to… almost everything you would say I would say, “I totally agree with that, and I also agree with the complete opposite of it” and both of them are true simultaneously. I know, okay, now the next point, you say something else, I say, “Yep, right on, also the complete opposite is right on”.
Unmani: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, that’s why no word is good enough. As soon as you say it, you’re limiting, you’re limiting life. So I mean you could say it’s better just to shut up and not say anything, but then there’s a natural like just overflow of expression, an outpouring of expression that just happens, and there seems to be still that same determination that we were talking about earlier, like really determined to find truth, that same determination is very much here and it speaks now.
Rick: And I think it’s serving a very good purpose in the world, personally, and there are many many people all over the world doing that in their own way with their own little groups and their own little one-on-ones and so on. It’s sort of like… supposedly the tenth avatar of Vishnu is supposed to be Maitreya, and Maitreya means “friend”. And some people say that the coming of God in our time will be from friend to friend, one-to-one, close, as opposed to some great being who comes to save us and speaks to the millions. It’s more like much more kind of democratic than that, much more kind of…
Unmani: Well, what we’re actually talking about is intimacy.
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Unmani: That’s why I like the dialogues that I do in the meetings because they’re so intimate. Most people are afraid of intimacy, afraid of really revealing themselves to somebody else for all kinds of reasons, fearful reasons. But in holding that intimacy, they get to see all those fearful reasons, and they’re uncomfortable obviously, because they also come up with physical sensations that are uncomfortable, but in holding that intimacy, even though those fearful thoughts and sensations come up, there’s a cracking and an opening that happens in that.
Rick: Yeah, I wouldn’t even say “even though” those sensations come up. I think probably the sensations are coming up as part of the whole transformation that they’re undergoing as you’re working with them, you know? There’s like, as I was saying, maybe that’s what I was trying to allude to earlier, there’s this physiological correlate, you know? People are undergoing these big shifts and sometimes the physiology is really rearranging itself to accommodate the shift that they’re undergoing.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, it does seem to be felt very much physically, with pretty much every belief or every old habit or pattern, it’s predominantly felt physically. And when I say physically, I’m including emotionally.
Rick: Right, and there may be fears, there may be some intentions that are coming up and melting, all kinds of stuff going on.
Unmani: Yeah, and a lot of the time there isn’t necessarily even a thought story that goes along with them � there can be but sometimes I’ve seen in retreats, people maybe have explored a lot of those thought stories already, but there are still waves and waves of physical stuff still coming up, and that’s the opportunity in those retreats that it just is all okay for it to just come up. So sometimes we just sit together and someone maybe shouts for a while, or whatever it is, cries and laughs even. Some people laugh hysterically for a while.
Rick: Yeah, that’s all I was trying to get at earlier when I went on that long thing, was that there’s a lot of the subjective nature of our life and the physiological nature of our life are kind of like interlinked, and changes in one result in changes in the other, and vice versa, like they go hand-in-hand, kind of, that’s all I was trying to say.
Unmani: Yeah, absolutely, I guess, yeah, the theory of it didn’t really…
Rick: I got a little too abstract with it there. Another thing that I thought about a lot while I was listening to you was that I consider it important – and I’d like to hear your reaction to this – to acknowledge that there are sort of levels to reality in a way. I mean ultimately there aren’t… if you want to take physics as an example of physicists, you could say, “Okay, fine, there’s the molecular level and there’s the atomic level and there’s the sub-atomic level, and then you get down to the vacuum state with virtual fluctuations, and that’s really all there is, and on that level there are no molecules, atoms, and any of the rest of it. But then again there are, and maybe they’re more virtual, maybe they’re not as fundamentally real, but obviously they are practical realities that we interact with. And a lot of times what I see happening is that teachers offer a description of their state or whatever, and I’ve heard you say in some of your talks, “I’m just offering a description here, I’m not offering this as a prescription”. But sometimes that’s done unfortunately, based upon their orientation, their experience, they draw conclusions and apply them to people who are not necessarily at that level of experience, and I think it can sometimes confuse people. You know what I’m trying to say?
Unmani: Sure, yeah. People can misinterpret a lot of things.
Rick: Yeah, again that was a bit of a long-winded question, but do you have any more response to that or should we let it…
Unmani: Not really.
Rick: Okay, it’s one of my pet peeves.
Unmani: Yeah, I didn’t really understand what you were asking.
Rick: Well, I could have made it much more concise, I’m sure. Maybe I should drop it, but… it’s like on some level nothing is happening and nothing ever happened, but on other levels things are happening. On some level there’s no doer, we’re not doing anything. On another level you and I are having a conversation, we are doing something.
Unmani: So what are you asking then?
Rick: Well, the question is I just wanted your opinion about this and whether maybe you even went through a phase as a teacher of doing this and then kind of evolved out of it. Sometimes I hear people sort of taking that no-doing state and kind of applying it to the doing level. In other words, “why shouldn’t I rob a bank because there’s really no person here. I can do whatever I want, there’s really no one doing it”, you know?
Unmani: Yeah, well that kind of brings us back to this sort of non-duality speak.
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Unmani: You know, it’s the same thing. It’s kind of taking this recognition, well thinking that this recognition is actually an attitude, and it’s not an attitude at all. It’s not something that you can do or not do.
Rick: It’s not a mood.
Unmani: It’s not a mood, it’s not any kind of state, it’s not a belief, it’s not a religion, you know? It’s not something that if you believe in it, that’s all that it takes, you know? It’s not a belief. Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot, that people will say, “Yeah, but there’s nothing I can do to wake up”.
Unmani: And yeah, it’s true, and as I was saying before, while you think that you should search and practice and all that, you should do everything, and you can. You have every choice in the world to be able to choose to search, you know? When you believe that you are someone who can do that, then you can do it. Now in recognizing that actually there isn’t anyone here with any kind of separate volition and separate control, then actually it’s not about whether or not I can do it, or whether or not I can’t do it, it’s recognizing that actually there’s no one here, so that any doing or not doing is just happening. And it doesn’t mean that, “Okay, all I could do is go and rob a bank”. You have no control, so it’s not like, even if you think that you could go and rob a bank, you can’t control that. It’s just a thought, and even that thought is happening out of control. The whole thing, everything, is just life doing it.
Rick: Right, and what I’m sort of cautioning against is people who hear you say a thing like that and say, “Oh yes, there’s no control”, but it’s not actually their experience yet, and then they kind of use that as an excuse for irresponsible behavior or some such thing.
Unmani: Well, what I’ve come across a lot and what I see with a lot of other people is that people hear about, as you were saying, a description of how it is for me or for another teacher or something, and people will try to replicate that.
Unmani: Which is very natural because that’s the nature of thought, because thought is doing whatever it can to try and help out. It sees there’s a problem here and it’s trying to help. So it’s kind of happening innocently. It’s nothing that people are doing wrong or something, but it’s just pointless. Just by trying to replicate someone else’s state, it’s fake, and it’s an attitude, it’s some kind of effort, a trying, a believing that you can do it as well. It’s some kind of controlling your situation, and coming back to that arrogance, it’s more arrogance.
Rick: Yeah, no, I agree. It’s very well put.
Unmani: And every word that is happening now is just happening. I mean, even as you say, “Oh, it’s very well put”, I have no control over what is being said.
Rick: It’s just happening spontaneously.
Unmani: It’s totally spontaneous. I don’t even understand what I’m talking about.
Rick: You do and you don’t. I mean, it’s not like you’re speaking Japanese or something. You understand the concepts, but I understand what you’re saying at the same time you don’t. So you’re in the U.S. now and you’ve been here for a while I guess. Well people will be seeing this for years, it’s on YouTube, but I will be linking to your website from mine, so if people want to get in touch with you whenever they listen to this and possibly go to a retreat. Do you do satsangs over Skype or anything, or do you just always do them in person?
Unmani: I do Skype as well. I mean, I prefer it in person because of that intimacy thing, but Skype is a second option if people are really far away and they can’t make it to a retreat. My main thing that I do is retreats. Yeah, I mean, they’re much more intense and there’s much more of a depth in general in a retreat. With a smaller group, with a group that is committed to being there for a week or 10 days or however long the retreat is, a lot can happen and it can be quite mind-blowing.
Rick: Do you quite routinely see people undergo rather profound shifts or awakenings or whatever term you want to use on those retreats?
Unmani: Absolutely, yeah. It’s shocking to me every time. Yeah, because as I was saying, I’m not doing any of it, it’s just to get together.
Rick: Yeah, all that happens.
Unmani: Yeah, it’s like, “Whoa, that’s amazing!”
Rick: And does it tend to stick for most people or do they all go home and lose it again?
Unmani: Well, you see, again, we’re not talking about an experience, are we?
Rick: But what do people report back to you? Do they think, “Oh, the retreat was marvelous but now I’m stuck in the mud again”, or do they think, “Wow, this is it”?
Unmani: It’s about, they recognize that it’s not an experience, you know? So even when – and we talked about this – even when they go back to their regular life and the experience is bound to change because when you’re on a retreat with some lovely people, we’re having a great time and yeah, it is quite a high experience, although it can have some hard times in it as well, but it normally ends on quite a high. So when you go back to your life, your job or whatever, it can be a little bit of a downer because you’ve left some lovely friends and a lovely week in some beautiful place.
Rick: Yeah, you go back to your job that you don’t like or whatever.
Unmani: Yeah, exactly. So it can be a little bit of like, “Oh”, which is natural, so we talk about that, but yeah, I mean, I don’t expect people to kind of go away on a high forever. We talk about reality, it’s about like, even when you go back to your normal life and the same old thoughts come up, it’s about seeing that even those thoughts are happening in who you are. So it’s not that those thoughts now should suddenly all go away and your whole experience should be all peaceful. It’s about recognizing that even when the experience of feeling upset or feeling, you know, there’s lots of thinking or fear or whatever is going on, that that is all happening in you. And so in recognizing that, there’s a natural kind of not taking it so seriously. So it’s not that it has to change or go away, it’s that it’s seen from a different perspective, and it’s not even a perspective, it’s just seen totally, just differently. And it’s that that changes and doesn’t change back.
Rick: Yeah. It almost sounds like the difference between watching a scary movie and not even knowing it’s a movie and it’s really scary, or sitting back in the theater and realizing, “Oh, this is only a movie”.
Unmani: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And there’s times, of course, afterwards that thoughts will come up and kind of identify again and believe that I’m in the movie, I’m really…
Rick: Yeah, it gets more gripping.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah. And that’s where we come back to this idea of never-ending losing or not only the idea of the way life is, but actually it’s about more and more and more and more seeing through those old, kind of gripping, things. They have to come up to be felt, to fully grip, so that you can see it. And some things have to come up again and again and again, because they’re such old, ingrained things, you know? And some of them just come up once and that’s it, they’re seen through, and they don’t really come up again anymore, or they come up and they’re just seen as a joke each time. But some of them seem to run for quite a while, and then it takes some time for things to be seen through.
Rick: Yeah, they’re large enough that you can’t get them all in one shovel full, you know? You have to shovel quite a few times on that one to get it resolved.
Unmani: Yeah, so I’m not talking about… Sometimes you go to a retreat and you have this blissful experience and then that’s it, it passes when you go home. So, even if you do have a great time on a retreat, going home, it might be a different experience but actually nothing has changed. That’s really what I get at in a retreat.
Rick: Right. It seems that a lot of people have the experience that at a certain stage it’s almost like a fire gets lit under them and there’s a sort of a momentum, a new pace of evolutionary process that gets ignited. And do you find that people who attend your retreats very often have that happen to them, that there’s sort of a new momentum kicks in and then just persists, even whatever they do after that?
Unmani: Absolutely. I’ve got some people who come to my retreats year after year and I see massive changes in them. You know, when I don’t see them for a year, something really is softened in them or opened or something is relaxed and they’re lighter somehow, they just don’t take themselves as serious and we can have a laugh together and there’s just some more love or something, you know, some more juiciness with them. Yeah, and that’s just happened by itself.
Rick: Do you recommend or prescribe anything for people to do in the interludes between retreats or do you just sort of set them out and they just live life and take it as it comes?
Unmani: Yeah, I don’t prescribe anything because life does its own work.
Rick: Does it for them.
Unmani: Yeah, life brings up situations where you just have to face your feelings, your thoughts, and it’s about that. I guess what I’m pointing to again and again intensely in retreats is that there is no escape from reality, and as long as you think that there is, that you’re trying to escape into some altered state of consciousness or some blissful state or even the awakening state, you’re escaping. You’re trying to escape the reality of what might be there, like some pain or some fear, or even some more pleasurable things, because sometimes feeling pleasure can also be something that’s too frightening for people to feel, or joy. Yeah, so it’s just no escape from reality.
Rick: So you kind of enable people to take the orientation to just face life more candidly or something, more fearlessly.
Unmani: Yes, and to see that the whole thing is a joke. It’s that paradox, it goes hand in hand. There is the natural courage to face everything that life throws at you if you know that it’s a joke, if you know that it’s not real. I mean, real yes, but it’s not really happening to you. If you know that, then you can face anything, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Rick: Yeah, for some reason I’m reminded of the Gita where a lot of the verses when Lord Krishna was about to say something were introduced by “Krishna smilingly spoke”, and here he is about to be in the midst of this gory battle and yet he has this playful smile on his face.
Unmani: Yeah, yeah, just knowing that it’s a joke.
Rick: Yeah, I could quote a Bob Dylan line here but probably everybody knows it anyway. So this has been great. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, been looking forward to it.
Unmani: Yeah, me too.
Rick: And being who I am I could go on all night dreaming up more questions and all that, but there’s a certain natural stopping point to these interviews, so I think we’ll wrap it up. So let me just make a few concluding remarks. You’ve been listening to an interview with Unmani, and this interview is one of many in an ongoing series called Buddha at the Gas Pump, and you can find all of the interviews at batgap.com, which is an acronym for Buddha at the Gas Pump. You can also sign up for an email notification to be alerted every time a new interview gets posted. You can sign up to listen to these as an audio podcast, many people report that they like to listen to it during their commute time or whatever. And also a little discussion group tends to crop up around each interview after it’s posted. There’s a place where you can post comments and questions and sometimes I’ll invite the guests whom I’ve interviewed to come in there and answer a question or two, so there’s that. So that’s about it. I appreciate your having taken the time to listen or watch. I appreciate Unmani having taken the time and I apologize for my occasional long-windedness and inability to state things clearly and concisely.
Unmani: No, it was great. Thank you very much Rick. It was really nice chatting with you too.
Rick: Thank you. So thanks to all who watched or listened and we’ll see you next time.