In many a column and article I have stated that the general thoughts about awakening are too romantic, often strange and sometimes plainly weird and that in spiritual societies common conditionings are abundant. And yet I still find myself obliged to pop the illusionary balloons of the people I encounter during sessions or in satsang. So maybe it will proof to be useful to offer this cluster of shards, so people can pop their own balloons.
Awakening is not the fun thing it may seem to be. Even if someone makes it through, in most cases there will be a not so short period of time of intense crisis, when everything is turned upside down and inside out, and that person will seriously start to doubt, on numerous occasions, his own mental health.
You won’t be sure of anything anymore. Pain, fear, despair, confusion, loneliness and what not, will be your frame of reference, and often you may feel like you are being run over by a train. There will be nothing you can hold on to and you will be at the sole mercy of non-existing, raving gods. You have probably seen them, the ones with the teeth, a crazy look in their eyes, a burning chain of human skulls around their necks and a lot of hands that hold with great pleasure all kinds of instruments of torture.
Anyone want to go first?
On numerous occasions I have met people undergoing this process of dismantling and have helped some of them to make it through. No fun there (especially for them). The common thought that awakening is uplifting, nice, a blessing, radiant, easy and full of bliss, is an incorrect one. For the record: awaken-ing is something else than being awake.
A spiritual experience can be enjoyable, but unfortunately they never contain any staying power and their impact is less than you would wish. It’s the dark periods that have deepening effects. Demolition, destruction, distress. (Not always, but more often than not).
Few rose petals, lots of barbed wire. Realizing you are asleep and imprisoned is painful and staggering, for starters. Especially when it becomes clear how much you are infected and that nearly everyone you know and think well of, attends the same pajama party, even the guys from your ‘sangha’ or spiritual club.
To free yourself isn’t much fun, and you’ll be leaving on your own.
It’s usually a period of leaving behind many things you thought were sacred or you thought were true. A period of realizing that what you thought was correct and the right thing, is actually bollocks. A period of experiencing and acknowledging you don’t know anything at all.
You may find the life you lived was a life infected with the past, fears, desires, conditionings, lies and that you judge situations through other people’s eyes. That you are not at all original or special. And you will realize that you in fact were being lived, while you thought you were living your own life, being in control (HA!). An immense force then arises in some people that makes them want to tear everything apart, and now and then someone is willing to follow that force, only to become overwhelmed by fear: I will lose everyone and everything, what the hell am I doing!
Do you want to give it a shot?
The people who visit gurus because they think they want to awaken are often wrong – almost all the time, really. They are attracted to the pleasant appeal, the (un-)veiled promises, the initial pleasant feeling of togetherness and the bedtime stories about oneness, happiness and joy when later you enter the sacred now. Many are attracted to the stories about how beautiful things will be when… And sometimes they truly believe they can’t live without a guru – so let’s take one.
Let one thing be clear: when a so-called teacher (M/F) starts talking about surrender, exercises, cleansings, transformation, discipline, giving a lot of money, awakening together or other compassionate, spiritually correct things, you know for sure you will be in no danger – except of being deceived, but that’s a daily routine, so that’s OK.
If you feel there’s a power struggle going on, you are usually right. If you feel the teacher (M/F) is a narcissist and tries his best to seem special, it is usually the case. If you feel he just wants to sleep around, this also usually is the case. If he is nice towards devotees and obedient followers, but harsh and unpleasant towards people who ask real questions or dare to be critical, you know something is wrong. Trust your instinct, I should say.
(Back when I was a real guru – I was running my own spiritual centre for nine years where up to twenty-five people could eat and sleep during retreats and doing loads of satsangs throughout the country and so on – I was thought of ever more special by the week, and often there were a few ladies – and an occasional gentleman – who were in love with me, or who thought I was sacred… thankfully I was allowed to escape again, leaving behind yet another prison.)
To be clear: the truth virus cannot be cultivated by spiritual exercises or meetings; it either grows inside of you or it grabs a hold of you when you aren’t paying attention. Or nothing ever happens. You can ask for it or damn it, but it won’t listen. Viruses don’t listen to prayers, they can’t be bribed and they are insensitive to social-economical or karmic arguments or circumstances. You can’t even be sure whether it’s alive or not. It takes a hold of you, or it doesn’t. When it does, you most likely wish it hadn’t – which is a great way to know it did. When it doesn’t take a hold of you, you may think it’s interesting or cool, but which sane person wants to have to take a bath filled with bleach and pieces of broken glass five times a week for one hour?
So how about all those happy, enlightened looking folks who seem so attractive and divine? Well, most of them are just on a spiritual high, a temporary state of consciousness, that’s all. And what goes up, must come down, and when it does it won’t be a pretty sight.
Ah well, that’s more or less what this book* is about. So, if you want to dream on about awakening, then don’t read it. Or do read it and then reject it.
Hans Laurentius, may 2014
*This is part of the intro of a book published in Holland in 2014: Rozengeur & Prikkeldraad – (Rose petals & barbed wire) Samsara – Hans Laurentius; we are considering publishing it (in English) but the translation requires some fine tuning by a native speaker – maybe something you are capable of, and willing to do?