Om Shanti Shanti Om
Good afternoon, I welcome you again from the bottom of my heart. All of you have been coming to Satsang with me for some time already, and what we have been doing so far remains the most important thing, the basis, the foundation of the entire edifice that you are building. But in this retreat I want to go further and touch upon some more advanced points — so to say, because this is not a lecture, a summer university course, or any such thing. But there are some details, which are not quite as important as Atma Vichara, as surrendering, as opening up to grace, or as coming to Satsang and putting yourselves in my presence, but they can still be helpful from a practical point of view. I always try to be practical.
At the beginning, when grace brought me to the point where I realized it was time to start sharing with you, one thing I did was go and see what some teachers of Advaita and other traditions were doing. I went to see them, just to figure out where or how it was that I could be of help. And one thing I noticed was that there were lots of “nice words”, lots of amazing stories, but they were not explaining how to find freedom. It was all just words. Many of them, being real teachers, would talk of what it felt to be realized, but they wouldn’t tell you how to get there. Robert Adams used to explain this: the teacher cannot just remain at the top of the mountain saying, “come up, come up, you’ll enjoy it up here, you’ll really like it, come up, climb!”. Robert used to say that the teacher has to be ready to come down to the foot of the mountain, help you up and show you the path, because the path to the top of the mountain is full of intersections and side paths that don’t lead to the top. A good teacher, a useful teacher, must be ready to do this and help you climb: “Let’s go this way, don’t go here, let’s go this side, that side”. Just saying and repeating how great it is does work, to some extent. It’s not saying how great it is that works, but the fact that you are sitting in front of the teacher is the part that works. You came before him to hear these marvellous words, and this always works — but the rest are just words.
I even read a few short texts, and my reaction was, “this isn’t saying anything!”. I read it again, and it was not saying anything! And then I see how everyone who reads it writes back: “how amazing, what marvellous words!”, “it makes lots of sense!”, “it touched my heart”… and I realized that there was a kind of game going on.
Do you know the tale of the Emperor’s new clothes? I’m not sure I will tell it perfectly, but here goes…
There was an Emperor who liked very much to dress up, and one time one of his subjects comes before him and says: “Emperor, this suit is for you, it’s a very special suit. Only very intelligent people can see it, only those who are very intelligent can see this suit that I’m bringing to you.”
And the Emperor thought: “I can’t see it, but I’ll wear it, because if I don’t they will realize that I’m not as smart as I look.”
So he wore it and went out for a walk in his realm, with someone walking in front of him shouting, “Today the Emperor is walking with a special suit that can only be seen by those who are very intelligent.” And everyone would say, “Oh, what a beautiful suit the Emperor is wearing!”.
But he was naked!
Everyone said, “what a beautiful suit the Emperor is wearing, how beautiful, how pretty”, because nobody wanted to admit that they didn’t see it. Until a child, in his innocence, cried out, “the Emperor is naked, the Emperor is naked!”. Then everyone fell from their pretense, and the Emperor realized that he had made a fool of himself.
In this thing we call “seeking”, many people are following this method. So-and-so said such a thing, and I didn’t understand it, but I have to say that I got it, otherwise my friends, the people on Facebook, those in the meditation group, will think that I’m stupid. Many people follow this approach, and many false teachers live off them.
Here we are not going to do such a thing. Here we are going to say “there is no suit”. We start from the point where “there is no suit”. First we recognize where we are, and from there we see what we can do. I always say that we need to know and recognize where we are at, without any pretense, because following appearances will take you where you should not be going, where you don’t want to go.
Today I will talk about the question: if I’m doing Atma Vichara, if I’m surrendering, if I’m opening up to grace, if I’m coming to Satsang… why am I not making progress as I should? Why am I not making progress as I would like?
Let’s see why. Why could it be? I’ve been giving Satsang for several years already, many people have come to my Satsangs, and I’ve observed certain patterns that come up again and again. People who fall into these patterns usually end up leaving. They get frustrated because they are not getting what they seek for, but they are only putting themselves in this situation.
When people start to get frustrated, wondering why they are not making progress, why they are not finding freedom, there are usually three things that are happening.
The first is that you come to Satsang, you do Atma Vichara, you surrender and open up mentally only. You are doing it from the mind, and of course the mind will chime in and say, “leave it to me, let me do it, let me be the one to do all these things”. So at some point you let the mind cheat you and take over, so you are doing Atma Vichara using your mind, you are surrendering with your mind, you are opening up with your mind, and you are coming to Satsang thinking “what is Luis saying now?” and using your mind to think about it. This is one of the greatest traps that your mind will set.
Atma Vichara and coming to Satsang does not mean starting here (Luis touches his head) and ending here (Luis touches his heart). It means starting here (Luis touches his heart) and going in deeper right here (touches his heart). If you start here (touches his head), you will not get anywhere. You have to start here (touches his heart) and then go deeper and deeper. Nothing that comes from the mind will help you be free, nothing at all.
Another thing that happens often, quite often, is that you find your teacher, and your teacher tells you what to do, he gives you the map to climb the mountain, but then you do the bits you like, and you don’t do the parts you don’t like. You do what you feel like doing, what you like doing, but not the other parts. But the teacher’s instructions work as a whole, each thing your teacher instructs you to do is important, and they all help each other. If you do some parts but not others, it’s not going to work. If the teacher tells you what the path is, but you prefer to take another route because you don’t feel like that one, then don’t complain that you’re not making progress. It’s really a whole package. What’s more, the parts you don’t like, the parts you don’t feel like doing, are actually the most important, because they are the ones your mind doesn’t want you to do, and if your mind doesn’t want you to do them, it’s because they harm the mind, and then mind lets you do other things because it’s not afraid of those. So you need to do it all, the parts you like and the parts you don’t. The teacher never tells you to do something, or to stop doing something just because he feels like it. If the teacher tells you to do something it’s because it’s important; everything that the teacher says is important. The teacher doesn’t talk for the sake of talking, and he doesn’t speak in order to grow his ego, because he doesn’t have one. You need to do everything, and most of all the things you don’t feel like doing, because those surely hold the key to why you have not been making progress as you wanted, and why freedom seems so far off.
Sure, you will make some progress, you won’t just stay where you are, there will always be a little progress, but not what is actually needed, not the kind of progress that will take you where you want to go. So you can just resign yourself to that small progress and stay there, but if you really want to be free, you need to do everything.
When I say this, it’s not a theory, it’s not something I’ve read or heard. If I tell you to do something it’s because I live it this way, I live always this way and I’m sharing it with you. If I tell you to do something it’s because I do it, or because I did it and now I don’t need to do it any more. I don’t talk from theory, I don’t ask you to do things that I was not ready to do, or that I did not do. That’s why I’m sharing these things with you, and telling you that it’s important, because I went through this.
It can also happen that you do everything I say when you feel like it, but then at other times you voluntarily do the exact opposite. You remain in silence, and then suddenly it’s “Oh, today I feel like going out with my friends and criticizing everyone.” You willingly do the exact opposite. This also won’t work, even if at other times you do all the right things. You need to do it all the time, you need to live it, you need to be that. You need to stop liking those things you used to do and which were not helpful.
I’m going to ask you to join me for a few minutes in paying homage to my great friend Alan Jacobs, who left his body last month at the age of 90. Alan Jacobs was president of the Ramana Foundation in the UK for 30 years. He was a seeker since very young. He did not meet Ramana, but he was with Nisargadatta, and also met Robert Adams in Sedona. He was a wonderful friend, the first time I went to give Satsang in London he came to see me and we had breakfas together. From that moment onwards, every time I went to London we would try to meet and spend time together. Last time we had lunch in Hampstead, in his favourite restaurant, but you could see that dementia was taking hold of him. Not of what he really was, that remained immutable. So let’s pay homage to him so that his grace may fall on all sincere seekers.
And the third thing that delays, or prevents, or postpones the process of liberation, is what we talked about the other day: this is a deal, it’s a two-way commitment between you and your teacher. The teacher commits to helping you to be free, and you commit to making sure that the teacher is not lacking anything. You need to do as much as you can for your teacher. This is not the teacher’s decision. I take it for granted that you are doing as much as you can. I don’t doubt it, but it’s between you and grace. Are you doing all you can? If not, then there is a problem, because there is a commitment. Robert Adams used to talk about this often, he would repeat:
“The teacher-disciple relationship is a mutual commitment. The teacher commits to helping you to be free. You commit to doing as much as you can so that the teacher is not lacking anything.”
And this is how it’s meant to be. Many people ask to receive; I’m not talking about you obviously, but people are always asking me for this or that, through the website, on Facebook, on the Youtube videos. I publish a video in Spanish, so “why don’t you put it in English?”. Instead of asking me how they can help to make sure this message can be heard by English speakers. That is the correct attitude, not just asking “why don’t you do this? why don’t you do that?”. First of all, these people think that all this things happen without cost, and that there isn’t a team of people working to make it happen, maintaining the website, editing the videos, publishing my books. And these people have to eat, and they have families. But no… “why don’t you come to Chile? Come to Chile, I want to see you!”. Well, why don’t you organize it, find enough people interested and bring me to Chile. Stop demanding things and do your part.
Then these people wonder why they are not making progress, and it’s because they are not living up to their part of the deal, and that’s not the teacher’s decision. The teacher treats everyone alike. The teacher takes it for granted that everyone is doing as much as they can. It’s between you and grace, and grace cannot be deceived, it’s impossible. It’s a matter of small things, brining a flower to the teacher, a stick of incense, anything.
This (Luis shows a speaker) was a gift from a German guy who came to the last retreat, he came with this. Now all of you enjoy it when I play music. In another Satsang he gave me a watch. He knows that I like watches, and he brought me a watch as a gift, because he could. This shows love, this shows appreciation. And grace notices. You might say I’m saying these things because I want people to give me things (laughs). No, it’s for your own benefit, not for mine. I already have a big pile of watches and hats. But if you give me a hat, as you did for my birthday, I see it as a sign of love from your part, and there is no doubt that grace sees it that way too.
Do as you can! Sometimes you will be able to do more, sometimes less, but it’s important to always give something back: a flower, some small thing, a few words of “thanks Luis”. This is important. I know you are paying to come to these events, but is this the most you can do? Is that the most that comes out of your heart? I wouldn’t be telling you this if it was not important. When I was going to Satsang with Robert Adams, I always used to bring something for him, apart from cash. Robert would come and find a flower on his armchair, or a special incense that I had found, with a wonderful scent; he would arrive and the incense would be lit. I did what I could, I would find some fruit in the supermarket, I would buy some delicious cherries and bring them to him. This all helps, and it’s also beautiful. You need to show your love, and do your part of the deal.
Luis de Santiago
Satsang in La Coruña, September 18th 2020