Interview with Connections Magazine 1997
Hi, Eli. Can you describe in a few sentences the central message of your work?
Eli: My work is to support everyone waking up from the trance of egoic suffering. My life is committed to a world of true peace and true freedom through universal Self-realization.
What does spiritual evolution/development mean in your own personal life?
I was not drawn to a spiritual life initially. Personal awakening never interested me. Like most people, I just wanted to be happy, which meant that I wanted everyone to love me and do what I wanted them to do and to be free to do whatever I wanted to do. And like most everyone else, I was not successful at this. So even though I had loving parents and a comfortable upper middle-class life, I was miserable and I made those around me miserable. A typical neurotic childhood.
In 1965, I was drawn into the civil rights movement as a first-year college student, and I loved the thrill of fighting for freedom. It made me feel very alive. So I became interested in stopping the suffering in the world. I never considered stopping my own suffering. I always saw the suffering as “out there,” and I would do something to change it. Also, I never saw my part in creating suffering. Suffering was always created by others: racists, capitalists, corporations. In this way, I denied my own part and also did not look at the root causes of my own suffering. This is the immaturity that precedes the spiritual search.
In my attempts to stop the suffering in the world I was tested, as everyone is tested. How far was I willing to sacrifice my own comfort, my own career, my own pleasures for what I said I truly wanted? In this testing, if you stay true to something more important than your own immediate self-interest, there is a maturing, a ripening. This is the spiritual path, whether it is called spiritual or not.
The spiritual path is the willingness to confront yourself. To examine yourself and expose the lies that you have been telling yourself to justify doing whatever it is that you want to do. This is a painful, humiliating process and very uncomfortable. The temptation is to sit and meditate 20 minutes a day and call it a spiritual life; to have sex and call it tantra and make believe it is spiritual. True spirituality means ruthless selfexamination and the deepening of a willingness to bear whatever it takes to stay true. This is a natural ripening that leads to finding the true teacher.
If yes, was this a process of sequential steps or more like an immediate experience?
First there was an examination of what “I” was not willing to give up. This was very painful. In this examination, and the willingness to give everything, I was ready to meet my final teacher. Then it was instant. As soon as I met him I knew it was over. Finished. My search was finished. My mind was finished. But still thoughts would continue arising and I said to him, “Papaji, I have been with you three days now and I am still not enlightened..”
He laughed and said, “Yes, I am surprised, a smart boy like you.”
“What should I do?”
He said, “Just be quiet. Let your mind drop into silence.” I did.
He said, “Now give rise to a thought. Watch it arise and let it fall back.” I did. And it was finished.
For the next month, consciousness watched for a thought to arise and let it fall back into emptiness. The realizations continued to deepen over that month. It was clear that “I” am absolute emptiness. I saw that all is absolute emptiness and that emptiness is overflowing as love.
What influence had this experience in your personal life/in your work?
Before meeting my teacher, I was training therapists and working with clients. He told me to bring this silent mind into the realm of therapy, saying, “Let both client and therapist wake up!”
What do you mean by awakening or enlightenment?
Enlightenment means shining the light where there had been darkness to see what is really there. Until the light of consciousness is willing to reflect back on Itself instead of chasing externalized objects, much remains hidden in interior darkness. Subconscious motives and desires run the life until the light of awareness exposes the darkness and reveals the true nature of consciousness. Until this examination happens, true motives are hidden under secret agendas. Before this examination even the desire for enlightenment becomes just another cover for wanting “my life to be the way I want it.” This is ego fulfillment, which is the opposite of Self-fulfillment.
Awakening is the awakening from the dream of a personal identity that is cut-off and separate from everything else. Everyone experiences this root alienation to some degree. The more aware you are of the alienation and separation through imagining yourself a separate ego, the more ready you are to wake up. Awakening is the realization that in truth, “I” do nothing. “I” have no power to control. This “I” is then surrendered from its imaginary position of the doer and the controller and gives itself to be used by Love. Awakening is the reversal of the process of consuming in the willingness to be consumed.
Would you say that you are enlightened or awakened?
This is a trick question, like asking have you stopped beating your wife. The realization that is directly realized is that the “I” that thinks itself either enlightened or not enlightened does not exist in reality. It only exists as a thought. When all thought is absent, when the mind is quiet, then light shines through the form and senses and expresses Itself through the relative mind of a relative “I.” There is no one who is enlightened or unenlightened. I recognize myself to be that.
For many years, in many spiritual traditions, I was searching for the secret of a silent mind. This was transmitted by my teacher, Papaji. In this transmission there is no one to say, “I am enlightened.” The one who says, “I am enlightened,” is the only obscuration to the flowing of enlightened consciousness. What I have seen is that there is nothing but consciousness everywhere, period. Therefore, everything is consciousness, all is enlightened.
Would you say that a Guru is absolutely important in reaching enlightenment?
Yes. The guru is your own Self. You as mind, as ego, cannot reach enlightenment without your own Self. This Self is alive as the Silent Heart within. Some can hear and obey the silent command from within. In my case, I needed this silent heart to manifest in a human form to look at me and speak to me and transmit Itself to me. So I feel very fortunate to have met the living truth in a human form. This does not mean that the human form was perfect, as no human form is perfect, but the human form was the perfect vehicle to transmit silence.
The great trap that I have sometimes seen with those who have woken up without an external teacher is that there is a great trap of ego-aggrandizement. The belief, “I did it myself”, is the trap of mind that many fall into. The very thought, “I did it,” is the obstacle to true realization.
Is enlightenment possible for everybody in this life?
Yes. Since who you are is immortal consciousness, how can you not be able to realize that? Since it is immortal consciousness that gives rise to the idea of a separate self, a separate ego, how can it be that immortal consciousness can not realize Itself? Consciousness is already realized. There is nothing to gain so it is possible for everyone.
What kind of advice would you give people who are on the way to self-liberation?
The first most important thing is to truly ask yourself what you really want. Most people have a long list of what they want and maybe enlightenment is one thing on the list. You have to really examine yourself and see what is the one most important thing that you want above all else, and are you willing to give everything else to that one true desire for liberation?
Then uncover all the ways you have sold out for something other then what you really want. If you know what you want and you are willing to pay whatever price, you can not be denied.