Hardware, Software, and Transcendence
a talk by Sri Adi Da,
November 24, 1982
ADI DA: Our brain and nervous system are a very subtle, very complex system operating on a higher level than the most sophisticated computers yet devised by human beings. It is an admirable machine, just as the high-technology products of human beings themselves are admirable. It seems remarkable that the same people you meet every day are producing these supermachines and actually making them work. In the same way, it is remarkable that jet planes fly, because most of the evidence of human existence offers an altogether different kind of story, of life as suffering and disasters and bungling, inability to create order, inability to cooperate, inability to make right decisions. In other words, the general products of human life are all a product of the golem 1 or an almost subhuman persona.
In fact, this very complex, highly sophisticated, "super-tech" nervous system-brain is being all these golems, these ordinary characters who are always bungling, failing, dying, suffering, and struggling. And a fraction of the human beings on Earth are involved in some sense in extending our own nervous system-brain into machines and high conceptions of how to use the laws of Nature, making these great technological products work in one fashion or another.
But somehow even all this high technology and high science wind up being manipulated by golem-like characters, such as politicians, and the tradition of how things are supposed to be. Thus, even though we have a very sophisticated technology, it is basically devoted to maintaining the military and keeping track of bank accounts and credit cards and nonsensical information, or what would seem to be very low-level information systems.
Underneath our ordinary suffering life and habits, the persona that we seem to be, is actually a very sophisticated machine. Why, if this is so, if there is underneath us or underneath Nature a super-tech, high-level machine with apparently infinite capability and power, why is this supermachine showing itself only as all these golems, basically as these bungling human personas? There is a supermachine subtly behind or at the root of all processes in Nature, but the same supermachine is also behind every individual personality. Why, then, if underneath it all, really at the crux of everything, there is this supermachine—why, at the level of appearances, in other words, at the level of what is being done by this machine, do we see all the evidence of this golem-like existence?
STUDENT: Beloved, perhaps this can be explained in terms of the distinction between software and hardware. The "hardware" is the machinery itself, the computer. The "software" is the program that processes the information you feed it and gives you back a balance sheet or answers the equation or whatever. The term "GIGO" in computer language stands for "garbage in, garbage out" and it indicates that the computer only responds to what is put into it. If you put garbage in, you are going to get garbage out. If the program is poor or if the information is entered wrongly or if the information is incorrect—well, if you put garbage in, you are going to get garbage out.
ADI DA: If, underneath it all and to begin with, there is this supermachine, how did it wind up being manifested as the garbage softwares of ordinary human existence? Why does the great human machine produce babbling personas and golem babble?
STUDENT: Because garbage is put in.
ADI DA: But that explanation comes from the persona itself. How does this great machine produce such a golem to begin with?
STUDENT: The garbage comes into the machine from all kinds of sources.
ADI DA: But the machine is also the source of those sources! Why did it make such software? If it is so great, why did it not right off the bat, right from the very beginning, create a superuniverse that works well?
Is the great machine in charge, in other words, or is it not? How did it get to be "not in charge" if it is such a supermachine? Not merely the human individual computer behind the software of the golem-like, ordinary personality, but the total universe is built upon such a structure apparently, a supercomputer, a supermachine that is even beyond imagination.
STUDENT: That is the same kind of question as, "If there is a God alive, then why is everything so messed up?"
ADI DA: It is a similar kind of question, yes. And it is a good question! (Laughs.) But I want you to tell me the answer! I ask you for the answer, and you just tell me how it is again in another form.
STUDENT: I don t know.
ADI DA: All this talk about software and hardware, you see, is just another way of babbling. It is just another way of telling me how it is. I am asking you why it is.
STUDENT: You got me! (Adi Da laughs.)
ADI DA: Well, does anybody have an answer? Is there a supermachine in charge and duplicating itself in the form of all kinds of entities, local stations, local entities? And if so, why are all these entities always just babbling and being software of a "garbagenous" kind? This discussion suggests that maybe there is a great universal machine, and that inside every human individual there is a great machine (the brain, nervous system, and so forth). But it also suggests that there is another kind of machine, a software machine created by the devil or some such thing, a wholly different principle that somehow exists along with this supercomputer. Maybe they both exist. And it does appear that in the struggle between the hardware and the software, the software, until now and at least in this world, is winning, or in charge, because the computer cannot do any more or any different than is dictated by what is fed into it.
If all this is so, how did this other, second dimension of existence come into being? Who created it? Who put the software into the hardware? Where did the software come from? Conceivably, the hardware could somehow come from a Super Being, because it is ultimately perfect. But where did the software originate if not from that same computer, that same structure, that same Super Being? Is there another being, another reality, another force, another machine, that is in the business of making golems, or software of a garbagenous kind? Is Something Perfect creating Perfection and something imperfect creating imperfection? And are these two always somehow in play with one another? And may they ultimately achieve a kind of Unity wherein the software is transformed and aligned to the business and the ultimate will of the hardware?
STUDENT: This sounds like the battle of light and darkness.
ADI DA: Yes, it sounds like that old myth of the battle of the good forces and the bad forces, Purusha and Prakriti 2 , God and Nature.
Well, what is the case?
STUDENT: Beloved, do you know about the machines that now appear in banks, the ones you can operate without getting out of your car? You can draw on your account, and the machine tabulates your records for you. I got one of these cards recently and I was explaining to my wife how it works. As we were driving away from the thing, I realized that while I was explaining it to her, she had the impression that someone inside the machine was working it! (Laughter.)
ADI DA: She probably has the same feeling about you! (Laughter.)
STUDENT: It led to an interesting consideration because it became obvious to me that she lives by exactly the same principle you are now considering. She is just like everybody else in that respect, maybe even more exaggeratedly so. She used to think that clocks basically kind of felt out what time it was and adjusted themselves accordingly!
Anyway, the principles of hardware and software become really difficult to deal with when you are talking about people, because, as you pointed out, we assume that we are individuals, that we are somehow the hardware separate from software.
ADI DA: But we act as if we are the software separate from the hardware. It is true that we think we are hardware, but we are really software. We think we are in charge, but we are the program. We are not in charge. We are just the program! (Laughs.) We call the hardware "God," and on another level we call it "the soul," you see. But as a matter of fact we are not in charge. We never do identify with the hardware. We always function as the software. Therefore, we are always turning out repetitions of the same dilemma with which we began.
STUDENT: Beloved, that is interesting, because as you were speaking, I realized that I always conceive of God as the software and this body-mind as the hardware.
ADI DA: You are in charge and God is the program? (Laughs.) Sounds as if we are getting into conventional religion here! (More laughter.)
STUDENT: The machine is perfect, though. The software—but I don't know if this metaphor is going to work too well any more...
ADI DA: It is a good metaphor because it uses the language of our time, the babble of science, but it also reflects a timeless metaphor, a metaphor that has always been projected by human beings in the language of the time in which they produce their own descriptions. I gave you some examples already. The dichotomy between Purusha and Prakriti, God and Nature, flesh and spirit—these languages reflect the same archetype as the hardware/software dichotomy. Thus, it is not useless to consider things via that metaphor. To do so is really a way of carrying on a kind of discussion that has involved human beings since human beings began to create sophisticated thought in any form.
There is a perception, in the functional order of things at any rate, of difficulties and of things always turning out the same and not becoming perfect, and yet there is at the same time a sense that there is something perfect—not merely a vague sense, either. There is a sense that we can even enter into That Which is perfect, a higher order, a higher disposition, a higher Law behind Nature and behind our own mechanical personality. These dichotomies that we are discussing are reflections of our experience.
Thus, to have the discussion is worth our time. We can use the hardware/software language or the Purusha/Prakriti concept or the soul/body dichotomy. We can use any one of these languages for the sake of this discussion, which is a process of understanding what experience is about and what is going on here, you see. I do not think this analogy breaks down any more than any of the other metaphorical analogies break down. We do seem to function like software or programs that have already been created and that have built-in limitations. The software does not seem to possess the ultimate ability to change its own program. The program may seem to change, but it always winds up being the same program again. It seems almost at will to build in limitations that then continue to produce garbage or the same kinds of results.
Now, over against this software, which ultimately winds up being in charge of its own experience and destiny, is a supermachine. We know that the nervous system and brain are a kind of supermachine that we are hardly even using. Why should this supersophisticated brain-nervous system be appearing as the usual guy, babbling about the usual obsessions and desires and acting dumbly and repetitively? If, underneath this karmic persona, there really is a superior machine even at the level of the individual, and if there are greater machines in the broader scale of Nature—which is the way it seems to us experientially—then why is that so? How can we account for it?
We are not in charge, you see. When you say "I," you are not pointing to the hardware or That Which is in charge of moving the body and bringing it into being. You did not create yourself. You are not creating yourself now. The "you" who responds in conversation does not produce the chemical secretions in the body and multiply brain cells and control the chemistry or reproduction. You are not doing any of that stuff. When you say "I," you are referring to the software, the persona, and that one is not in charge. You are not the One Who is Living you. The one who responds in conversation is not the One in charge. He or she is the program responding, a form of identity, a persona that is perhaps being projected by the hardware or the ultimate machine, that perhaps has nothing to do with that ultimate machine except that it is playing on it somehow like a record on a record player. Perhaps, apart from that association or play, the ultimate machine does not affect the outcome of this program.
Now, this description suggests something like what you experience to be the case. You are this body, or at least this body is the base of your sense of "I," your personal identity, but you did not create the body. You are hardly doing anything the body is doing except some very gross mechanical things, and even they are not entirely your responsibility or within the framework of real options for you.
It is also true that, when you are conceiving of existence and your own destiny, you can point to the inner machine, the nervous system and brain that is behind your own apparatus, and say, "Look, this is a supermachine in here, and this software persona out there is a bit of babble, a bit of repetitive destiny," and you can fret over that mystery. On another level, however, the nervous system and the brain are a different form of software, as much a program as the babble of the golem personality.
Thus, a kind of separation or independence is reflected in this conventional persona. It seems to be a separate or separable program placed on the machine of the brain and nervous system, but the machine of the brain and nervous system is itself software. It is not the great Machine itself, not even a great machine. It seems superior to the persona but is itself another form of software, a form of conditional existence that presumably has all kinds of limitations built into it and that will repetitively reproduce those limitations. It is also software, then, to some other hardware. How far back into Nature must we go before we find the true hardware of the Ultimate Machine? Is there such a thing? Or is there just an apparently infinite universe of software programs and no Ultimate Machine?
From the point of view of the conventions of experience, we say that there are, in effect, software and hardware, an outer persona and an inner, superior machine. But if we truly analyze existence and do not merely talk from the point of view of "I," then we can see that the inner machine is as much software or a conditional apparatus as the persona. All of Nature, then, is just software, but it is a hierarchy of programs. It is a kind of political order of programs: outer ones not controlling the inner ones and the inner ones being superior to the outer ones, but every inner one having another one inner to it or subtler than it upon which it is turning or riding and whose energy it is using. But if we analyze all of Nature as it is, we see that it is not built upon some ultimate machine but is a hierarchy of different kinds of software that function like pairs of hardware and software. It is all software but it functions like pairs of hardware and software.
Ultimately, then, all of Nature is nothing but software, without a hardware entity or great machine that is in charge. It is ultimately built upon not a machine that is in charge but the Great One, a Great Condition, Which, once Realized, cancels out or Outshines or makes obsolete all the software, all these hierarchies, all these complications of conditional existence.
As I pointed out earlier, when we reverse the order of things and, instead of using the apparently inner hardware to supply the juice for the running of the outer software, we turn the software in upon the hardware and then go back further and further, even that gesture does not work to perfect the personality, not in any ultimate terms at any rate. As soon as energy and attention are granted to it, the inner hardware works to transcend itself and ultimately to transcend all the levels of the hierarchy behind it.
When this conversion comes about, changes even along the lines of some more positive programs may come of it, but it does not result in ultimate perfection. It leads to the transcendence of the total structure of Nature, which seems to be software built on hardware but is actually all software programmed in hierarchical divisions, so that there always seems to be an outer part or persona or conventional destiny and an inner structure superior to it. But there is no ultimate inner superior structure. What we call God from the conventional point of view is, in effect, ultimate hardware, an Ultimate Machine that should be in charge, you see, but never functions as if it were in charge any more than the hardware of a computer system functions as if it were in charge. Actually the software is in charge, determining its own destiny.
The God of conventional religion is a myth conceived on the basis of this conventional experiential dichotomy between the outer self and the inner machine or inner self. We describe God on the basis of this convention of experiencing and call God a Creator, the One in charge, the One we look to and Who we hope will somehow perfect everything, including our own personal destiny. But that God does not exist. That God is the myth of our psycho-babble, our software program. Such an idea expresses our lack of insight into the structure of things. It is a convention or limit of insight that settles at some point for a myth rather than further insight and ultimate transcendence.
God is not the ultimate hardware in this machine of Nature. Nor are we, the soul, the ultimate hardware inside a personal machine. God is the Condition of Nature, the Condition of all machines, of all softwares and of what appear to be hardwares, all of which are softwares, you see. And God is Realized, then, through transcendence, not through the connection of conventional belief that hopes for perfection at the manifest level, the software level.
Generally human beings manifest the reductionist tendency to acknowledge and resort to something behind appearances that is ultimately responsible and in charge. This conventional human effort expresses a kind of metaphor or myth of conventional consciousness. It is part of our program, part of our software, our karma, because we "I's," even though we identify with the body and even though the body provides our base of self-acknowledgment, are not really the body. If we really were the body, we would bring ourselves bodily into being with full intention and would be consciously operating as the body, such as carrying on even the subtle activities of brain chemistry interfacing with cells and microtransmitters.
But we are not doing anything of the kind. We are babbling along, eating, drinking, sexing, trying to survive, worrying, being driven. We somehow express something at the periphery of the superior machine, but the superior machine never speaks. If I speak to any one of you, you will respond as long as you have the capacity of speech. But the you who responds when questioned will be found out not to be the body, but a program of the body, a face somehow projected by the body.
The television set over there is a very sophisticated instrument, but what kind of stuff comes out of it? What are the images on the screen? A bunch of babble, a bunch of nonsense. It transmits a golem life on its face. And what is it inside? A supertechnological instrument, a piece of very sophisticated machinery. Why should it be babbling such crude images? Those images somehow are the machine but they do not represent it truly, you see.
Our government is another example. It is supposed to represent the people in some higher sense, but it is like the people. It reflects the program of the people. It is not the higher machine or the ultimate mechanism of human society.
We tend always to resort to some subtler mechanism, some inner structure, even in our cells. Within us are great capabilities, but as a general rule human beings never actually connect with a superior machine. They always connect with the programming that is the face of the machine. No matter how much fooling around you do with the dials on that TV set, it is not going to project images in its own likeness. It is going to produce images in your likeness. It is working for you. But where did the machine come from? Human beings made it.
These golems, these ordinary human beings, are also facing some very sophisticated machinery in the form of their own body-minds, just as they face the TV set. Even the machinery of the body-mind is ultimately a conditional apparatus, but upon examination it seems to be far superior to anything you are tending to be or anything you are. No matter how sophisticated your thinking becomes, you will never get to the point where you, the one who responds to me in conversation, is even the mechanism of the body. You will never be speaking for it. You will be speaking on it, playing on it, but you are like a TV movie, you see. The Entity, Structure, Process, or Machine that is actually producing the subtle chemistry, producing the body and operating it right now, never speaks. It will never say to you, "How are you? Yes, I am glad to see you. While I am talking to you I am producing some very subtle brain chemistry. Would you like to see me do it? There. Did you like that one?" That One will never talk to you. Who is talking to you all the time? Who is engaging the conversation here? Is anyone, really, or is our conversation just these software programs combining with one another? Is it an illusion, in fact, like a TV program?
Who are we? Or are we at all? (Laughs.) Are we ourselves when we are just silent and not being these personas? This machine does not talk. Who are we when we are not talking, not thinking, not expressing our motivated life, not carrying on our egoic adventure? Are we really the machine then? When is TV the TV set itself? While it is playing movies for us, it is an illusion, a persona, a face, you see. But when no movies are playing, it is just a TV set.
So who are you? You will never be the TV set. Even the TV set is not TV, you see. It only gets to be TV, rather than just something inert without process, when the Life-Current, the Light-Force, is flowing through it and being modified by its mechanism. Our nervous system and brain are something like the TV set. Apart from the Living Current that is modified by the nervous system, the nervous system has no independent life. It has no self-consciousness. Thus, there is this Life-Force, or Consciousness, and then there is this supercomputer nervous system-brain belonging to the physical body, and then there are these personas, the programs of TV.
You, the you who is talking, are the program, not merely a someone. It represents itself as a someone, but its face is actually a complex product of all kinds of apparent entities. We make singleness out of existence, but existence is really a complex multiple structure without entity. What is single in that structure is the One Force Consciousness, but It is modified in the form of these inert machines, these hardwares that never speak and never represent themselves and never take over truly. That Living Consciousness is shown, evidenced, or played in the form of these personas, these golems, these programs who are one step removed even from the hardware of the inner structure, the nervous system and brain, the TV set, which is not in charge, but which is an inert structure controlling the flow of energy in a particular way. It has no separate consciousness or separate existence. Behind it is the Current that gives it the possibility of animation but that never animates Itself.
Who, then, is represented? Who are these personas? Who are these programs? What kind of reality do they really have? Where do they come from? The Life-Current is not making them, because it does not say, "I am I." It is behind all these "I's." The hardware does not make them. The software determines its own destiny. How did these illusory personas come into being, and what is their present status? We are very concerned about them—we who are nothing but images, illusions on the face of the hardware that is a structure for using an ultimate Energy or Consciousness that neither speaks nor acts and does not take over.
Although we personas, we golems, would like the machine or the hardware or whatever is behind us to take over, nothing takes over. The programs are always in charge. Different programs come into association with one another somehow in this hierarchical world of machines that control energy. The programs interface with one another and modify one another and create different stories, different TV pictures, all filled with beings calling themselves "I" who say they are the body but have nothing to do with operating the body or bringing it into being. Someone's appearing on the TV set and saying, "I am the TV set," would be like your saying, "I am the body." That person is obviously not the TV set. Neither are you the body.
Well, who are you? If you had a real perception or understanding of your status, you would no longer be able to say that you are the body. You are somehow related to it. If the body were not there, you would not be there to say you are the body. But you are not the body. You are playing on the body, and the body itself is playing on a Universal, Transcendental Force or Consciousness. If that Consciousness were not there, the body would not be there.
But neither the body nor What is ultimately behind the body is in charge. It is not controlling or apparently even bringing these personas or programs into being through any kind of decision-making process or any will to perfect them. The personas are continuing on their own, it seems, although apparently they could not persist if there were not bodies or hardware structures and if there were not the ultimate Current and Living Consciousness. Those personas are their own destiny, and they are just going on. You are just going on. What kind of reality do you have, therefore?
More than evolution or the creation of advanced adaptations, the power of repetition would seem to be the superior or basic motion behind conditions in time. There are changes, some of which we could call evolutionary, but they are not primarily what is happening. Repetition is primarily what is happening. And, because the programs are not real, because they have no ultimate independent existence and are not even what they say they are, wisdom is not about finding out who you are in independent or entified terms. The real question is not "Who are you?" but "What is it?" "Who is it?" What is the ultimate Status of all this, not merely of you?
You are not a soul or entity that can be discovered inwardly and separately. What is the Condition of all these illusions and all the apparatus on which the illusions are riding? What is That? What is It? That is What must be Realized. It is Realized through the transcendence of the programs, not through their becoming inverted and full of self-knowledge in the conventional sense, in terms of extensive technical awareness of our own parts and structures. That awareness is a secondary form of knowledge. Ultimate knowledge, if we can call it knowledge at all—and Ignorance is a better term for it—transcends this program and also transcends the hardware, the mechanism underneath the program.
Transcendental Realization has nothing whatever to do with evolution. Evolution is about the continuation and development of the programs. Transcendental Realization is about transcending the programs, the mechanisms, all of Nature. Thus, Transcendental Realization is not something that appears through evolution or that has anything fundamentally to do with these programs or with Nature as a whole. It has nothing to do with any of that. It is about transcending all of it. As soon as you enter into the stream of transcendence or Transcendental Realization, you are going beyond the illusion of Nature altogether, not merely improving your program, you see.
Can Nature be accounted for? In the Hindu tradition it is said that this Maya can never be comprehended. Such is the Confession of some Adepts. It is also my own Confession. Ignorance is the Principle. You cannot ultimately comprehend what appears. You can carry on a discussion such as the one we are having, you can engage in analysis and see certain features about the process of things, but you cannot know enough about it to account for it specifically and altogether. In other words, how can you answer the question, "How does the software come into existence?" or "How does the hardware come into existence?" when all there is is the Transcendental Condition, prior to will and activity?
Can you answer the question? We think we are supposed to be able to answer every question, you see. We can perhaps break the spell of our minds by contemplating this question, but it is more a koan 3 than a question or problem that can ultimately be solved. We can develop answers, but they will be conventional—in other words, they will be part of the program itself and will ultimately have the status of a kind of myth rather than the force of Truth. Can we comprehend how all of this happens in God? We can comprehend something about it, but we cannot grasp it ultimately. In our effort to grasp it ultimately, we go beyond ourselves and beyond grasping, beyond knowing.
STUDENT: Beloved, I love how you say that you treat the body-mind as one of your relations. That approach seems to embody the form of the koan, or the paradoxical perspective, you are now describing.
ADI DA: I is a koan. It is not an entity. I is a koan, like "Mu" 4 or "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" or "Imagine a circle. Now imagine a square. Now imagine a circle that is a square." Those considerations are koans. The "I" is likewise a koan. Really to investigate it breaks the spell. It does not produce ultimate information, the perfect figuring out of everything, but it is a process sufficient for transcendence, or the breaking of the spell. It somehow interferes with the programming to enable us to consider the program as a whole and as It IS.
All we are or seem to be is this program. We are like a TV program right now, just images. Somehow, because we are played upon That Which is Consciousness and Energy, we are involved in Consciousness and Energy just as we are involved in the hardware, the machine behind the persona. This makes it possible for us to consider ourselves, experience a dilemma, and be motivated by a desire for release or transcendence, because we are played upon and are ultimately Identical to That Which transcends everything.
Even though we are just a movie, just light forms seeming solid to one another, we are Consciousness, we are Energy. Thus, we can consider ourselves, even though we are an illusion. The "I" is an illusion, but it is played upon That Which is Transcendental and Ultimate. Therefore, even in the framework of this illusory program, the great consideration can take place, but it involves considering this program or yourself in much the same sense that a Zen practitioner considers a koan. The consideration in the end breaks the spell and vanishes this illusion.
These "I's" know that they depend upon the body and identify with the body, and so they are trying to persist through time. They do not want the TV set to break down, they do not want to die. But such craving and fear are the product of identification with the persona and dependence on the machine rather than insight into and intuitive Identification with That Which precedes the persona and the machine. Once we identify with That, then the spell of fear and the effort of survival are broken. We are flashed beyond the persona and the machine and all the hierarchies of machines and programs in Nature. We break the spell. But as "I," as personas, we are in fear—which is as absurd as someone's appearing on the television set screaming with fear that the TV set will break down or that you will turn it off or that there will be a power failure! (Laughter.)
Perhaps there is a certain kind of self-consciousness in this persona that reflects its dependence on a machine that is out of its control. It senses that the machine is not immortal, even though the machine is extraordinary, very complex, and senior to its own apparition. But the persona knows that it cannot survive if the machine breaks down.
Well, what ceases to survive? The program ceases to survive. If all of Nature dissolved, the machines would disappear, but what would continue? The same Transcendental Condition would still continue wherein there is no fear and no delusion. We are fretfully seeking to accomplish something in the name of this illusion, in the name of this program, and therefore we assign great importance to its continuation and are very attached to the various features of this apparition or this TV vision. But it does not have any ultimate importance, although it certainly has conventional importance until we can break this spell and Stand Free.
I speak within the program, but I am not the machine talking. I am That Which is prior to the machine, Which has acquired Agency through the breaking of the spell in the case of a particular entity. That Which is prior to the total machine of Nature is then temporarily given voice through this mechanism. It is That Which is speaking to you. Neither the machine in between nor this personality apparently talking to you is actually talking to you. The mechanism has not taken over. In fact, it still has many limited tendencies of its own, as does this persona.
This mechanism is going to die. It is not the One talking except in the sense that it is the Agency of That One. This particular Agency comes to an end with the ending of this persona and its machine. Agency itself will not necessarily come to an end. The Agency will be extended into places, into the Teaching, and into other human beings, when the spell is broken in their own cases. I can extend the possibility of the Agency of That One through the activities of this persona and the machine upon which it depends. But I am not speaking for perfection, for some higher possibility in Nature. I am not the machine behind this persona nor some other, greater machine in Nature giving you an evolutionary message.
Certain aspects of what I communicate to you may have evolutionary force, of course, or even the force to change the programs. But fundamentally What is communicating Itself to you is That Which is prior to Nature, breaking through or simply Standing Free, and while Standing Free, That One is associated with a persona that came into being just as its machine came into being, through the normal route of structures and apparitions in Nature.
When the spell is broken, then the Transcendental or Great One has Agency—but only if the spell is broken. Otherwise, programmed entities are simply talking and acting, and machines of one or another capacity within the hierarchical scale of Nature are providing a functional base for these apparitions. Only when the spell is broken does the Transcendental Reality have Agency. Superior personas and superior machines exist, but their voices are part of Nature, part of evolution's expression of the disposition of the lesser stages of life, not the Truth of the Transcendental Condition.
STUDENT: Beloved, I was thinking how completely humorous it would be to us if somebody on television actually did scream in real terror, "Don't turn off the TV!" It is true, we are in exactly such a position.
ADI DA: Yes. You are all trying to stay calm, get along, and feel good. But in fact you are very uncomfortable, very, very uncomfortable. Aren't you?
STUDENT: Not in your Presence, Beloved.
ADI DA: You can associate with many kinds of useful company that serve your motivations as conditional personas, that give you hope, help you relax, improve your circumstance, and change your conditions in a positive direction. Certainly an aspect of my Influence in your life works in that direction. But my fundamental Force or Transmission in your life is a radical motion or impulse that would break the spell of conditional existence altogether, that would break the spell of your association with this software program of personality as well as with all the machinery or the hardware of Nature.
Thus, I do not merely work in the conventional sense to help you create order and evolve or change your program positively. At most that is a secondary aspect of my Influence. I am Wilder than that. 4 I Work spontaneously, without any self-conscious purpose, in some sense even chaotically. This is just how I function, you see. I notice it just as you do on an ordinary human level, because this body-mind is fitted to an Awakening Impulse. It is Free already of the program and the machinery, Free already of Nature. It is humorous. It is here to break spells. It is Crazy, therefore. Something like those secondary effects may also develop in my Company, but they have nothing to do with the primary Impulse or significance of my Appearance in your life.
And, as I mentioned already, as conditional personas you are all very uncomfortable. You can acquire, through improvement of habits and circumstances, at least a temporary sense of balance and generalized well-being as a conditional entity. You can make the television set function well temporarily. "Only put on pleasant programs. Do not put on any horror shows, psychotic killer shows, world news, and so forth. Stay spiritual. Stay easy." You can do all of that, but even if you do, and you cannot even do that to the point of complete freedom from possible interferences or limits on your conditions so that they always turn out well, still, underneath it all you are uncomfortable.
You know very well right now that, even though you can be relaxed and sit and enjoy my Company and one another's company, you are going to die, and you are likely to experience all kinds of suffering and even derangement. Because you know that this machine is not a god. It is not perfect. The machine behind your persona is temporary and is itself mortal. You are profoundly uncomfortable with your situation, and you should be. Not to the point of literally deranging yourself with your discomfort, but that discomfort does make you turn about from the mere pursuit of contentment, consolation, and improvement of conditions. Even though on some level you may be devoted to those ends as a practical matter of daily living, fundamentally you must be devoted to the transcendence of them, because you will always be uncomfortable—and you should be.
This discomfort is not merely fear. It is a motion toward release. It is a sane motivation rather than an insane one. Fear is an insane motivation, or it can lead to insanity. But more fundamental or subtler than fear is the simple discomfort or freedom from naivete, a fundamental sense that this persona to which you could devote yourself is going to come to an end and is never perfect and is, in fact, riding on a machine that will self-destruct one day. It will self-destruct in any event, if in the meantime it is not destroyed by some other machine or some complication of this program here, this drama that is going on.
Therefore, even though as an ordinary matter you should basically function so that you maintain a level of equanimity and help others to do likewise, if you are intelligent, your fundamental motivation will be riding on this sense of discomfort and will be moving in the direction of release. This impulse makes it possible for you to be sensitive to me and to this consideration. It makes it possible, therefore, for you to practice the Way in the real terms of this consideration, not merely to practice as an extension of your general will to feel good, to have things turn out well, and to improve your conditions.
Some people become conventionally religious. They are basically seeking to make the program survive, and survive well. You can use my Company in such religious fashion. You can use this Teaching for the sake of the conventional will to survival and well-being. But true religion or the real use of my Company is a matter of coming to meet me on the basis of this impulse toward release, this lack of satisfaction. If you are already more or less self-satisfied and do not understand your position, if you do not even appreciate your fundamental motives, then you will tend to use me for the sake of consolation, generally finding out what you have to do to feel best while you live and to get along as well as possible. You can use me to help you understand something about right diet and then devote yourself to that—there are all kinds of other possible programs you can follow. But I do not communicate these considerations to you as programs merely for the sake of well-being. They are simply appropriate programs, if you will, which keep energy and attention loosed from the program of the persona so that they are available for this primal impulse to release, to transcendence. This is the significance even of the disciplines given to you in my Company. They do not have a conventional purpose, although secondarily they may serve such a purpose in some sense. Their fundamental purpose is to serve the possibility of release or transcendence by freeing energy and attention. But if you have not come into touch with your dissatisfaction, with this primal motive to release, then you will not use me or this Teaching or this Company for the purposes that are at its heart.
You must realize that you truly are uncomfortable and will never be comfortable as long as you are merely a conditional persona. No matter how grand the program may ultimately become, no matter into what plane you may be born, you will always be looking at this strange apparatus. I have always been sensitive to this fact. Yogic phenomena and mystical phenomena have therefore never bound me. I have had all these experiences—but when I have the experiences, I also see this weirdo machine. I do not just see the images on the TV set. I see all these wheels revolving and resistors, capacitors, strange waves, and all the rest of it—the whole insanity of that projection. I see the machine in its futility. But as an effect or as an appearance I see also the suffering inherent in its continuation.
Thus, for me there is no delight, no great solution involved in going in and up and entering the realms of mind. I see the wheels turning there, I see all the craziness out of which these images develop. I do not just see them congeal into the discrete images on the screen. I see them just before they become that, before the brain makes sense out of them. I see this psychotic wheel of lights, the infinite fractions, its cellular parts just about to show a discrete image.
When you can see that, you feel profoundly uncomfortable and are never comfortable even with the discrete image. Because I was incapable of being consoled by software or hardware, the spell was broken in my case. This Awakening demonstrates the ultimate virtue of discomfort or the inability to be consoled. It is the ultimate means, or that which puts us into intimate association with the ultimate means.
Therefore, the force of this Teaching is not merely to send you to a better world after death or to give you a better circumstance in your next lifetime. It is the understanding that even now you are in an inbetween state, a "bardo," 5 and that you can completely understand your present condition to the point of transcending it. You can drop out of the program. You can Outshine it. God-Realization is not a matter of separating from the program, however. It is a matter of clearly understanding it and Outshining it by Standing Free, Standing in the Position in Which we eternally and therefore presently exist, the Condition that is being flowed in the inert machines and animated in the programs. It is possible to be completely Awake in the Transcendental State even in a moment such as this, even in this bardo.
It is the function of the Adepts to be thus Awake and to be able to communicate the Source as the Source, to Awaken others to the Source, to jiggle them out of their comforts, their programming, their commitment to the programming and to the destiny of the ego. Much of what I must do, therefore, is to interfere with you—not merely to console you, but to play all your games, and games you cannot even think of, to create bizarre slices of experience, to interrupt the programming. You are watching the set, and I zip little messages under the screen and make chaos out of the movie. Suddenly there is an off-the-air special report. Zap! Your favorite movie is suddenly interfered with, your football game is broken into. Much of that is what I must do. A word from the sponsor—everything—I interfere with it.
Part of my function, you could say, is to be a subliminal image. "Always remember Me." 6 Part of this Remembrance of Me includes remembering me just as I look to you right now. Having seen me personally, you remember me, you use my pictures and associate with my lifetime on some conscious level. You are using me as a subliminal message underneath all the ads and all the dramas of ordinary living. That message is a way out. Just to keep your attention with me breaks the spell. Of course attention to me personally is not the whole of this Remembrance but just a fractional part of it. Your attention to me is attention to the Spiritual Reality, not merely to this persona or to the machine on which this persona is riding.
Part of this Remembrance involves association with me as I seem, as a human person and so forth. But then you begin to see my image and my messages in the midst of all kinds of events. It is like subliminal advertising. There is an ad featuring a whiskey glass with ice in it, the bottle next to it, and a message saying "Drink Socko" or whatever it is. That is the way the ad seems at an ordinary glance. But if you examine these images, very often they have little words carefully worked into the design of the ice cube, perhaps, which say "Sex, Love, Happy," or other things.
You begin this Way, in other words, by living your ordinary events. But then somehow you see the words and images that are hidden in the picture, and you get the feeling that I am everywhere, that I am operating to make all this happen, that the Divine is making it all happen, that the Divine is controlling your life somehow or making things happen to your benefit, to wake you up, to help you out. That is true, but it is spontaneous Magic, and its importance is to break the spell, not to give you new spells that are more dramatic or unusual or consoling.
The best thing to do, then, is to be uncomfortable. That is the one thing you do not want, though. Bottom line, nobody wants to be uncomfortable. Everybody wants to be comfortable. You do not want to use your greatest virtue, which is the virtue of discomfort and the capacity to transcend the spell. Instead of doing that you try to maintain a level of consolation and involvement with all this hardware and software so that you will not feel uncomfortable.
You cannot avoid that discomfort. It is essential to your conditional life. You must find it, locate it, and really use it. That is the best thing to do. Do not be angry and sorrowful and guilty and fearful. Rather, be uncomfortable—in other words not satisfied and not satisfiable—in the framework of ordinary living, and you will find me, you will hear me, you will practice. You will have the will to practice transcendence, and you will do it in your daily life and in meditation. But you will not have any energy and attention for that practice if you are not uncomfortable, if you are not dissatisfied. You will tend to settle for the dissatisfaction in the form of neurotic emotion, which is not a sufficient basis for practice.
At least this is the way it seems to me, but you know how Crazy I am! All I can tell you is the way it seems to me. The real import of all of this is not whether or not there is some order underneath it all, evil or good, whether there is some conspiracy or some creative cause. The real importance to be observed is the non-necessity of this experience and, from the conventional point of view, the binding power of this non-necessary experience. The real import of life is not to discover its hidden secrets, the secrets of its working, but to transcend it, to break its spell altogether.
Even though, as people in the world, we work to generally serve the well-being of others in this confinement and even to find out some of the secret workings behind it, even though we may do all of that as an ordinary matter, the fundamental motion of our proceedings, our energy, our consciousness, our attention should be founded in our essential discomfort and our will to transcendence. Therefore, whatever we may be doing, if we understand, we will be renunciates and practice Samadhi moment to moment and not be fools. Above all we will not be fools to ourselves. Whatever conspirators there may be elsewhere, we fool ourselves by becoming overserious about our apparition.
So, it is appropriate to have had this discussion on an evening on which we have all gathered together to watch TV!
1. golem: Jewish folklore; a man-made figure constructed in the form of a human being and endowed with life. [<Yiddish goylem<Hebrew golem shapeless thing]
2. The Sanskrit terms prakriti and purusha denote "Nature" and "Self" respectively. The Prakriti is the total manifestation, including the non-material dimensions of existence. By contrast, the Purusha (meaning literally "man") is the Principle of Consciousness, the Transcendental Self beyond all manifest realms.
3. Adi Da has described the term "koan" in his writings: "What the Japanese call the 'ko-an' is an apparent question—that is, we tend to try to answer it via the usual operations of the mind. But the 'question' itself works to undermine the mental process. It is actually a form of meditation on doubt, or failed mind. Therefore, the 'ko-an' is 'answered' only when it is transcended as a motivator of thought. When its power to initiate doubt and confine us to doubt is understood and transcended, then there is a sudden rush of joy, freedom, and tacit Intuition of Transcendental Being" (The God in Every Body Book, p. 34).
4. The Japanese expletive mu expresses negation and is used in Zen Buddhism as a principal koan, intended to lead the practitioner beyond all affirmative and negative responses—in other words, beyond the mind itself.
5. Adi Da refers to his Teaching function in the manner of what is traditionally known as a 'Crazy Adept." He explains this unique role in the following essay enticed "The Way I Teach":
"What I do is not the way I am, but the Way I Teach.
"What I speak is not a reflection of me, but of you.
"People do well to be offended or even outraged by me. This is my purpose. But their reaction must turn upon themselves, for I have not shown them myself by all of this. All that I do and speak only reveals men to themselves.
"I have become willing to Teach in this uncommon way because I have known my friends and they are what I can seem to be. By retaining all qualities in their company, I gradually wean them of all reactions, all sympathies, all alternatives, fixed assumptions, false teachings, dualiries, searches, and dilemma. This is my way of working for a time. Those who remain confounded by me, critical of me, have yet to see themselves. When their mediocrity is broken, when they yield their righteous reactions and their strife toward all the consolations of the manifest self, they may see my purity.
"Freedom is the only purity. There is no Teaching but Consciousness Itself. Da Free John (teaching name) as he appears is not other than the possibilities of men"
(The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, p. 53).
6. Bardo is the Tibetan term for any of the intermediate or astral states of the soul after death and before rebirth. It can also refer to any kind of transitional or intermediate state or stage of life, and this is the sense in which Adi Da uses the term here.
7. Capitalization of "Me" as an expression of Identification with the Divine.
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